Youth in Eau Claire area plan to give back to community

Students and community members trade their Saturday sleep for community service

ECLIPSE workers like the one above work with children to build early childhood literacy in the Eau Claire area.

Photo by FILE PHOTO

ECLIPSE workers like the one above work with children to build early childhood literacy in the Eau Claire area.

Story by Sammi Wendling, Staff Writer

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This Global Youth Service Day, Eau Claire residents volunteer their time to help out within the community.

On April 18, the UW-Eau Claire AmeriCorps ECLIPSE program is organizing groups of youth volunteers to go out and clean up various sites around Eau Claire for its annual Global Youth Service Day project.

Early Childhood Literacy Intervention Program, Service and Evaluation, or ECLIPSE, is an AmeriCorps program whose goal is to focus on childhood literacy.

ECLIPSE generally sends out between 120 to 140 volunteers, including the 40 staff, for GYSD.

ECLIPSE program manager Donna Lehmkuhl said volunteers are able to help out the community by tidying up the town.

“One of the things we do is rake leaves for seniors who need some assistance to maintain their property.” Lehmkuhl said. “We rake leaves in the fall, and most of those same sites ask for help in the spring, when the melted snow uncovers leftover leaves.”

Lehmkuhl said volunteering offers a wide array of benefits for both the community as well as the participants.

“You get to do this with old friends, or go out and meet new friends.” Lehmkuhl said. “Participants get to go out and enjoy the weather and meet new people, all while doing service for the community.”

Lehmkuhl said she would encourage students to volunteer their time to a community that does a lot for them.

“Students are residents of Eau Claire for the majority of the year,” she said. “This is one way they can get out, enjoy themselves and give back to their community.”

ECLIPSE partners with other agencies, such as Western Dairyland, for GYSD.

Western Dairyland is a parent community action agency that manages other programs like Fresh Start, a program that works with youth ages 16-24 who might have had legal trouble or have not gotten a job yet. They are a direct partner for the clean up.

Rosalyn Ross, who works with the partnership between Fresh Start and ECLIPSE, said because both programs are AmeriCorps groups, their goals align and they can collaborate well.

“Fresh Start is able to give youth who are troubled that second chance.” Ross said. “While most of our volunteers have had run-ins with the law, they apply to our program so that they can make a change in their life.”

Even though the early mornings can be frustrating, Lehmkuhl said for the volunteers it is a worthwhile cause.
“We may not always like getting up early, but at the end of the day, it feels good, knowing you did something to better the community,” she said.

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