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Community Service at Duke Fueled by Passions

Duke Civic Engagement Helps Connect Community

American Red Cross needs Duke volunteers to staff its local blood donation center.
American Red Cross needs Duke volunteers to staff its local blood donation center.

Ask a Duke volunteer why they commit to community service and you’ll frequently hear one word: passion. 

Duke’s 44th annual volunteer fair, hosted by Duke Civic Engagement in collaboration with the Triangle Nonprofit and Volunteer Leadership Center, was held in September. It inspired 175 student, staff and faculty attendees to find ways to serve in the community and to find the joy and meaning of volunteerism. 

“There are so many committed people at Duke who care about the community and their passions,” said Linda Lytvinenko who recently retired from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “There is likely a nonprofit at the volunteer fair or in the Doing Good (employee giving) campaign they could align with.”

The event included presentations by more than 40 community partners in Durham and the region. Now working as a temp for Duke’s Sanford Board Leadership Initiative (SBLI), Lytvinenko attended the fair to seek nonprofit organizations possibly interested in placing Masters of Public Policy students into year-long local nonprofit volunteer board positions.

“I came away with a new appreciation of the number and breadth of nonprofits represented and the number of inside Duke initiatives available,” Lytvinenko said. 

There are at least 10 nonprofits she believes will be good matches for the SBLI students’ board placements.

First-year student Velda Wang was happy to squeeze several nonprofit sessions in-between her busy class schedule. It was the virtual format which made it more convenient to hear from multiple organizations. She intends to reach out to Urban Ministries of Wake County and also found an interest in the Duke group Supporting Women’s Action. 

“I knew coming into college that I wanted to pursue service,” Wang said. “But I wasn't sure what organizations there were. I knew there were lots of opportunities, which was overwhelming and the volunteer fair was the perfect way to see many organizations and see what aligns with my interests.”  

Duke Civic Engagement virtually hosted organizations to share volunteer opportunities with the Duke community.
Duke senior Adam Nawrocki came to Duke already experienced in community service back home. He attended the volunteer fair to explore local food banks, giving closets and community gardens he could become involved with.

“I would say follow your passion and interests,” said Nawrocki.

He plans to volunteer with Open Table Ministry’s “Free Store” program that provides provisions to those struggling in the community. 

For nonprofits like The American Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina Region, the Duke volunteer fair is a key to supporting their operations. Red Cross has a large blood donation site near Duke’s campus and it relies heavily on Duke volunteers to become blood donor ambassadors, where they greet and check in donors and staff the canteen.

“94 percent of the (Red Cross) workforce is volunteers,” said senior recruitment specialist Lesley Ireland. “We assist in local disasters, house fires, blood donations and more. We need a lot of extra volunteers.”

For those that were not able to attend the virtual Duke Volunteer Fair, recordings of all 40 volunteer organization sessions are now available on the Durham and Community Affairs YouTube site. Each video is about 5 minutes long.

Year round, Duke Civic Engagement maintains a volunteer platform, ConnectCommunity, which helps match nonprofit volunteer opportunities with Duke community interests at

“There is great potential in the partnership between local nonprofits and members of the Duke community in terms of service and volunteering,” said Duke Civic Engagement senior program coordinator Sandra Martinez-Zuniga. 

To learn more about service opportunities with local organizations, as well as training and resources to engage in purposeful, equitable and sustained partnerships visit