University of Utah students will be looking for volunteers for community involvement more than ever in the upcoming 20 weeks as the community service center celebrates 20 years.

In addition to the 250,000 hours of service that students provide in an average year, the Bennion Center is hoping that a step-by-step handbook of how to put together service projects and opportunities will get people thinking — and doing — more.

"We're hoping that people will take service one step further and reflect on the root issue of the service they've just done or what caused them to need to go and help where they did," said Alicia Geesman, director of alumni and donor relations at the Bennion Center. Solving root issues, such as homelessness and hunger, is what the center is all about.

"We want to work toward eradicating some of those social problems that cause us to need to be out doing volunteer work," she said.

In a state known for its charitable proclivities, Geesman said Utahns are among the best for giving money to organizations in need. The Service Handbook: A Pocket Guide to Civic Engagement, developed by students at the Bennion Center, not only lists ideas for various projects but also outlines how to go about doing them in the best way.

A habit, Geesman said, takes only three weeks to form so within 20 weeks, she hopes more people will make more service part of their lives. Putting together "little armies of volunteers" is easier than people might think, Geesman said.

The handbook contains more than 100 ideas and ways to work with partners and organizations within the greater Salt Lake Valley. Providing bedding for local shelters, calling BINGO at senior living facilities, teaching language and basic skills and making quilts for shelter animals are among the ideas listed in the handbook.

"With this handbook, we hope to extend those tools to the greater community, continuing the legacy of Lowell L. Bennion, humanitarian, teacher, friend and inspiration to so many," Geesman said. "It's times like this when you are enriched as much as those you serve."

For 20 years, the Bennion Center has given students the tools to become civically engaged in their communities. Forty-six student-run programs helped more than 7,800 students provide service valued at more than $4.6 million last year, according to Geesman.

Service learning courses offered at the U. also get students involved in the community for meaningful, hands-on experience in the fields they study.

The 20 weeks of service kicks off Monday and individuals are encouraged to perform one or more acts of service each week through April 11. Participants are invited to share their experiences online at

The Service Handbook is being distributed to dozens of community locations across the Wasatch Front and can be obtained by calling 801-581-4811 or by e-Mailing Gina Lee at [email protected].

"With costs being cut everywhere, we need to get out and provide some of these services in our communities," Geesman said.

E-mail: [email protected]