On a Friday afternoon, the Pilsen offices of LIFT-Chicago are abuzz with clients who require services and a small army of DePaul students there to help them.
“The students are the lifeblood of LIFT,” said Sol Anderson, director of programs at LIFT-Chicago. “We are an organization that works one-on-one with low-income community members and helps them find jobs, housing and public benefits. Our students and volunteers do 95 percent of our client service and direct one-on-one work. They support efforts to advance our program and to help as many people in Chicago as we can.”
DePaul's strategic plan, Vision 2018, recognizes the educational relationship between students' curricular and co-curricular activities and seeks to expand opportunities to enhance their personal and intellectual development through community service.
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president of DePaul, visited LIFT-Chicago in May 2013 to meet students who are investing their time to and expertise to serve LIFT's clients.
“At LIFT, we help underserved populations, and we give a voice to people who don’t really have one,” said Rebecca Woods, DePaul sophomore and community advocacy manager at LIFT-Chicago. “I think that really incorporates DePaul’s Vincentian mission about seeing those people who are usually not seen.” Like many of the student volunteers, Woods is involved in DePaul’s Community Service Scholar program, which requires 30 hours of service from each participant per quarter.
At LIFT-Chicago, the students have turned that volunteer time into real-world experience helping Chicagoans in need. Jennifer Short has seen the program’s benefits firsthand, noting, “I started working with clients and I was thinking, ‘I’m a freshman in college. How can I help these people when they’re going through things I’ve never had to experience?’ But two years later, I’m still doing it. As you see clients make progress, you realize that even over 50-minute meetings you can get to know someone and see progress. You can give them help that you wouldn’t be able to give if you saw them on the street.”