“It’s a lot of hauling food,” said Teresa Velasquez, who works at IUPUI in IT Community Partnerships, part of UITS Client Services and Support. Velasquez is a co-lead of UITS Cares and recalls working and coordinating volunteers with Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis. “Packing up a box of groceries for one family is no big deal, but do that for four hours, and it’s a pretty big deal. And for most of us sedentary IT at our desk workers, it can be strenuous.”
But for Velasquez, the hard work is worth it. She loves working with fellow UITS staff to serve other people.
Formed in 2015, UITS Cares is a group of staff members working on multiple campuses across many divisions who communicate about volunteer opportunities and share resources related to community service. Anna Greene, group manager for eLearning Design and Services and one of the cofounders of UITS Cares, describes the group as an “informal group of UITS staff who do service work on their own time, but receive very strong support from UITS leadership to highlight and coordinate that work within the IU network.”
According to Greene, the idea for UITS Cares was born in a copy room, where she was talking with a coworker about their separate volunteer projects.
“I was collecting supplies for transitional support of people leaving jail,” said Greene. “Toiletries and things like that. And he was collecting food supplies for a nonprofit that he had started with his wife called Backpack Blessings. And he said, ‘I have toiletries. I don’t know what to do with them, we don’t put those in the backpacks, but we get them. Maybe I could give them to you?’”
Velasquez and Greene encourage anyone involved with service or volunteer work to get connected
According to Greene, there were a lot of UITS staff members doing service work and the idea that staff members could come together and elevate and magnify each other’s work was very appealing. And while the first few years of the program were successful and supported by UITS leadership, it wasn’t until the creation of the UITS Day of Service, a paid leave day to participate in an IU-sponsored volunteer event, that UITS Cares really took off.
“Joe Farrell reached out to us. This service day benefit had come up and it required some coordination,” said Greene. “Brad Wheeler was in charge at the time, and he wanted UITS to do something under a theme and in a very coordinated way. He didn’t want it to be random. And so, Joe Farrell asked if we could lead that. And we were thrilled because it gave us a productive focus.”
According to Velasquez, the first UITS Cares Service Day started small with a Bloomington-based event at the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.
“It was just a single event which felt small given the grandiose ideas that Anna and I have all the time,” said Velasquez. “But it was a great starting-off point. A single two-day event. One day to set up and one to break it all down.”
“It’s an honor to be asked and able to host or sponsor that service day and make things happen,” continued Velasquez. “But UITS Cares is so much more than the service day. It was here long before it and it will be here long afterwards.”
UITS Cares now has at least one coordinator on every regional campus, except IU Fort Wayne, with some regional campus service day events already completed and more in the works. “We wouldn’t be doing this without them,” said Velasquez. “It’s great to be able to coordinate with everyone from across the IU system and help support their communities.”
Velasquez and Greene encourage anyone involved with service or volunteer work to get connected. “If you are doing something this month and want more volunteers or are curious as to how to donate to a specific cause, we’re more than able to help. If you’d like your event to be eligible for the service day benefit, UITS Cares can assist with that as well.”
For more information on UITS Cares, please contact one of the campus UITS coordinators below.