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Volunteering Becomes a Labor of Love for ODU Sophomore

It was a required project for her high school when Old Dominion University sophomore Ashley Morris started volunteering her time making ID profiles for senior citizens and children.

But for the 19-year-old from Grafton, it's become much more.

Morris estimates she's made 150 of the profiles in the past three years, discs that contain vital information about children and seniors, so they can be identified by family members if they get lost, or worse.

"I was required to do volunteer work as part of school," Morris said. "As I got older, I got more involved with it. Now I understand why I'm doing it."

Morris, who hopes to go into marketing or advertising after her studies, became involved with the SafeAssured ID program through the Volunteer Center of the Virginia Peninsula, where her grandmother Carolyn Kincaid is the director.

Morris has been helping the volunteer center set up the computerized profiles - which include still photographs and video images, as well as information such as a person's tattoos, scars or other identifying characteristics.

The completed disc is given to a family member for safekeeping, and can be used by police and other authorities in the event a loved one goes missing.

"It's a really fast process. All the information is right there, and really easy to use," Morris said.

The program is sponsored locally by the volunteer center, in cooperation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

While Morris believes strongly in the program, she's been surprised how much becoming a volunteer has moved her. She long ago stopped needing to volunteer for school assignments. Now it's becoming a habit. "It makes me feel so good to help people, any way that I can," she said.

School is a busy time for young people. Many aren't able to volunteer, while others may not have seriously considered giving some of their free time to any of the hundreds of worthy projects in Hampton Roads desperate for volunteers.

But Morris says she has a pitch for her classmates who might not be involved with an organization or agency, and are wondering if it's worth the time.

"I just explain to people that when you do something good, it's such a positive experience, and you get such positive reactions from the people you're helping. It's an awesome feeling."

Students interested in getting involved in their community can call ODU's Center for Service & Civic Engagement. The center provides them with the opportunity to enhance their educational experience beyond the boundaries of the classroom by engaging in meaningful service to the campus, local and global communities.

For more information or to volunteer, call the Center for Service & Civic Engagement at 683-6948, or e-mail volunteer@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: February 8, 2010

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