Starting Point: Badger Volunteers Fuels Former Morgridge Center Intern’s Passion for Non-Profit Work

The first thing Gia Dinon did when she arrived on the UW–Madison campus was look for a place to volunteer. The only problem – she didn’t have a way to get there. 

Without transportation, Dinon wasn’t sure where to go next. That’s when she discovered Badger Volunteers.

“When I found out about Badger Volunteers, I knew it was the place to be because they made volunteering so accessible,” Dinon says. 

Gianina Dinon
Gia Dinon

Dinon, who graduated in 2019 from UW’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, volunteered with Badger Volunteers throughout her entire undergraduate career. She worked at a variety of different sites, including a senior living center, a food pantry garden and Red Caboose Child Care Center. 

During that time, she forged relationships with fellow volunteers and staff members. When the Badger Volunteers media internship opened at the Morgridge Center, she knew the position was a natural fit. 

“We worked to build and strengthen the Badger Volunteers community, because volunteers could get siloed in their small volunteer group of four to six students,” Dinon says. “We really wanted to create opportunities for volunteers to meet other like-minded Badgers.”

Beyond day-to-day communications work, Dinon was part of the team that commemorated Badger Volunteers’ 10-year anniversary in 2018. What began as a small volunteer initiative with only a few sites and volunteers grew into a campus wide program within a decade. Since its establishment in 2008, Badger Volunteers have contributed over 246,000 hours of service to the community.

Dinon says it was inspiring to document the impact Badger Volunteers has had on UW–Madison’s campus, the greater Madison community and volunteers themselves.

Dinon helped commemorate Badger Volunteers’ 10-year anniversary during her time as an intern.

“So many people that we reached out to – alumni of the program, former staff members – attributed what they were doing in their current career to their Badger Volunteers experience,” Dinon says. “It was a starting point for a lot of people.”

Turns out, Badger Volunteers and the Morgridge Center became a driving force in Dinon’s post-grad life as well.

Following her graduation in 2019, Dinon became the development and grants specialist at Meta House, a Milwaukee nonprofit that provides services to women struggling with addiction. 

In addition to writing grant requests and supporting communication efforts, Dinon worked with current and former Meta House clients who were interested in sharing their experience in treatment and success in recovery. 

Dinon collects blanket donations for the women and children at Meta House after speaking to a community group.

Dinon says it was a privilege to help women celebrate the hard work they’d put in to overcome their addiction and completely transform their lives.

“I was able to share the mission and communicate the importance of treatment,” Dinon says. “And through storytelling, help break down the stigma surrounding addiction.”

Dinon recently began a new role as grants manager with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism – a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization – where she’s eager to have a similar impact.

She credits Badger Volunteers and the Morgridge Center with leading her to pursue a career path centered in service.

“Badger Volunteers, and specifically my internship with the Morgridge Center, showed me that I could use the tangible skills I’d developed in undergrad to make a difference in my community,” Dinon says. “Badger Volunteers was a huge part of that – my love for community.”