Through the help of the Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, volunteer opportunities for students are made accessible to any and all students at the University of Indianapolis. Some students opt to take Sociology 103: Social Problems (SOC 104), but an even more select few take the optional service lab attached to the course, Sociology 104: Social Problems Service Learning Lab. According to Coursicle, SOC 104 is designed to add a real-world dimension to the study of social problems by allowing students direct experience of addressing social problems in the community. Students spend 28 hours throughout the semester volunteering with an organization in Indianapolis and record their experiences in a journal, according to the website.
Two students in the course, sophomore nursing students Kristin Sawin and Lindsey Henkle, chose to spend their time volunteering at St. Elizabeth Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services (SEC). SEC, a non-profit organization rooted in Catholic tradition, believes that every child has a right to a healthy, loving family, according to Program Coordinator and UIndy alumni Christine Higgenbotham. According to the SEC website, SEC works to provide services to empower families regardless of faith, through support, compassion and professional guidance. SEC’s services include their adoption programs, donation program and community outreach, which encapsulates adoption training, education and advocacy.
Higgenbotham said that while they do have some full time staff, what they do at SEC could not be possible without their volunteers. UIndy volunteers have been flexible in the projects they commit to, which has been helpful for placement’s sake, according to Higgenbotham.
“I can pretty much group all of the UIndy volunteers that I’ve had so far because I’ve had one that I’ve had since freshman year, she doesn’t have to do it for class, she just loves coming,” Higgenbotham said. “Every single UIndy volunteer that has come in has just been so willing to help with whatever project we have. There’s never been any confusion or anything because there is open communication . . . . I just love how willing they are to help and accept [constructive] criticism if they need to.”
Higgenbotham said she has always had a major heart for adoption agencies because she herself was adopted, which is what led her to SEC. According to Henkle, before attending UIndy, she volunteered at her home town in Fort Wayne, Ind., doing some work in community outreach. Seeing the needs of kids in foster care and in bad situations made her want to work with SEC to help match kids with families and set them up for love and success, she said.
“I go [to SEC] for two hours on Mondays. So far, I’ve mostly helped with the clothes donations; the first week I was there I helped [with], they call it a layette bag that social workers can [request] for their clients,” Henkle said. “[The client] gets a whole bunch of outfits for their kids for the whole first year and bottles, diapers, bath care, bedding, all the stuff that they need to start out.”
Henkle said that the last week she went to volunteer, she spent her time making outfits for various requests. She said she not only matches the outfits, but also matches it to the children’s sizes. Henkle said volunteering at SEC is beneficial to her future career in nursing because she can use it as a resource to refer women to.
Sawin said that other donation orders can include blankets, toys, dishware, books and other items that families might not ask for. Sawin said SEC doesn’t always just help a family one time, which is reflected on their orders, so that they can focus on getting the family more of what they need if they do come back.
“They have a lot of donations . . . . They have a whole back barn full of stuff,” Sawin said. “I know the back room that we [volunteers] work in has eight or nine rooms full of stuff like diapers, onesies, wipes, all of that stuff.”
According to Higgenbotham, the donation program didn’t start until about 11 years ago when her previous supervisor realized that some people coming into SEC didn’t have things like shoes or coats. She said that her supervisor would collect things and when they eventually asked the community to donate, it exploded.
Organizations that center around topics like adoption and foster care are things that Sawin said she is very passionate about. She said she knew she wanted to volunteer in the field of pregnancy services or adoption services.
Henkle and Sawin, being in the nursing program, as well as being resident assistants, are both busy, but Henkle said they both are passionate about volunteering, which is why they made the choice to take the course and volunteer at SEC.
“If you’re passionate about something, you can always find time to volunteer somewhere. It might only be two hours a week, but people are sitting on their phones on TikTok for two hours at least a week … ,” Henkle said. “It really isn’t that much of a commitment and the satisfaction from helping is a lot bigger.”