Students creating memories through volunteer work in the community

CUBEFest’s inaugural Labor of Love event showed participants different glimpses of Eau Claire

More stories from Austin Mai


Photo by Meghan Hosely

Making a difference, exploring a new community and developing new friendships was a package deal earlier this week for UW-Eau Claire students.

Freshmen Kyle Thornton of Rhinelander and Brooke Nowak of Chippewa Falls volunteered at The Community Table of Eau Claire on Labor Day as part of the inaugural Labor of Love event.

Nowak and Thornton stocked and served food at the local food pantry, and while doing so, made connections to previous work they had done and what can be done to help.

“In Ashland over the summer I helped with the community food drive,” Thornton said. “you don’t take anything for granted and we have a great opportunity to go to UW-Eau Claire. I wanted to become more aware of what our options are for helping out.”

This was exactly what interim assistant director of Housing Katy Braunsky hoped for when organizing the event as part of Housing and Residence Life’s 2015 CUBEFest.

She said with the help of Student Leadership and Greek Life Coordinator Katy Rand, the event provided many opportunities for students to grow through volunteer work and by gaining new friendships.

“We were happy to have these different options for students to be apart of,” Braunsky said. “Feeling like part of the community was the goal and I think our students achieved that.”

Nowak said her experience at The Community Table brought back memories of working at her church’s soup kitchen. She said seeing the families and the need for food then gave her more insight to her own community and this opportunity did the same.

“I want to come and help here more,” Nowak said. “It’s a great way to see sights you probably wouldn’t if you stuck to campus.”

She said by meeting people through the volunteer effort, students will now have reasons to visit other dorms and branch out from there.

Students hopped on buses at 8:45 a.m. Monday at Towers field for the opportunity to dive into the Eau Claire community and give back on their day off. More than 150 students, mostly freshmen, worked with various groups around the Chippewa Valley to see their new home for the next few years through a different lens.

Braunsky said second and third-year students along with resident assistants also volunteered. Braunsky believed CUBEFest had started to lose significant meaning to the students and this event would be the best way to simultaneously help out the Chippewa Valley and connect students on a level they may have never experienced before now.

“Campus and community partners were major contributors for this to work so well,” Braunsky said. “The students want to do good but don’t always know where to start.”

Some students worked with the United Way by hanging door tags downtown. The door tags provided 2-on-1 action resource forms for anyone suffering from violence, substance abuse or sexual assault.

Students also worked with the Eau Claire Parks, Recreation and Forestry department by cleaning up trash on Wisconsin Highway 312, also known as the North Crossing.

Additional events included assisting at the Eau Claire County Humane Association and cleaning up Owen Park.

Ila Giese, a freshman from Stoughton, had never worked with an animal shelter but found her experience to be meaningful.

Giese and nearly 30 others took a tour of the facility and then were divided into groups for assignment. Some went to clean animal cages while others handled the cats and walked dogs.

Freshmen Kayla Robers from Racine and Rochelle Thesing from La Crescent, Minn., were first sent to deep-clean kitten cages. Then they walked some dogs and finished by feeding the cats and playing with them.

“I didn’t realize how many homeless cats there were,” Robers said. “It’s really sad that they’re stuck here.”

Once the students returned, they were provided volunteer service buttons and snack packs courtesy of Eau Claire’s dining partner Sodexo.

CUBEFest runs through this week until the football game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Carson Park.

The CUBEFest schedule can be found by searching “cubefest” on the university homepage.