A longstanding New Haven organization that grew out of Dwight Hall in the early ’90s continues to benefit city youths by combining nature and community service.

The Inner City Outings program, which aims primarily at inner city children from ages four though 18, recruits trained volunteers to lead outdoor trips for the children that include activities such as hiking, swimming, camping, bicycling, rollerblading and whitewater rafting.

The program, which had its beginnings in 1993 at Dwight Hall, Yale’s community outreach organization, exists in order to get children who otherwise would not have the opportunity into the wilderness.

“ICO is a program that allows kids to get out and experience nature in ways they wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” said Melinda Tuhus, a founding member of the New Haven chapter of ICO.

An outreach program of the national Sierra Club, there are 45 chapters of ICO across the country. No longer officially affiliated with Dwight Hall, the New Haven chapter is currently supported by grants from the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, the Carolyn Foundation, and the Long Island Sound License Plate Program.

Despite the organizational severance from the University, Yale students have played an important part in the organization’s growth.

“We have recruited students from the Dwight Hall open houses over the years and have ended up with a few great Yalie volunteers,” Tuhus said.

Michael Morand, Yale’s associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs, praised ICO’s contributions to the New Haven community.

“Inner City Outings is an excellent initiative sparked by Yale students to expand the horizons of local children and provide them access to this community’s nearby natural wonders,” Morand said.

Tuhus, in her new role as the Northeast representative to the program’s National Steering Committee, also explained that she is currently coordinating the launch of new ICO groups in the region as well as assisting in the development of ICO strategy and policy on a national level.

With this growth, however, comes a greater need for new volunteers. Tuhus said that any Yale-affiliated student who may be interested in this unique opportunity should contact the New Haven chapter of ICO directly.

“Our best Yale undergrad volunteers graduated last May, and we have others this year who are interested but we are always looking for more people,” said Tuhus.