More Than 500 SSU Students Show They Care About Community in Massive Day of Service in Sonoma County

rp-animal-shelter-jump.jpgSonoma Serves student volunteers from the SAE fraternity work hard at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.

By Angela Hart, Rohnert Park Patch
September 24, 2011

Five hundred Sonoma State students blanketed Sonoma County Saturday, September 24 for the university's biggest volunteer drive of the year, called "Sonoma Serves."

Volunteers were deployed to 21 service areas throughout the county -- 200 volunteers cleaned up Lake Sonoma, crews built a fence at at Crane Creek Regional Park, removed nonnative vegetation from Rohnert Park City Hall, cleaned bike and pedestrian paths along the city's network of creeks, lent a helping hand at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter, harvested produce at Petaluma Bounty and assisted at the Redwood Empire Food Bank -- just to name a few.

The idea, which formed last year from a Sonoma State student involved in the JUMP (Join Us Making Progress) program, is to have students band together on one massive day of service.

Now in its second year, "Sonoma Serves," has partnered with United Way and the City of Rohnert Park.

jump_raking.jpg

JUMP volunteers clearing trails at Helen Putnam Park.

"It was so cool to see so many students show up this morning," said Jodi Roth, the community service coordinator for the project. "Last year we had 200 students, and this year we grew to 500."

Roth said other community service projects helped build momentum. For example, today is United Way's "Day of Caring," which is geared towards promoting the spirit of volunteerism and increasing awareness of local human service agencies and schools.

Today is also National Public Lands Day, what's touted as the largest single-day volunteer event for public lands in the United States.

Sonoma State students were joined by the US Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday -- who were spread out doing coastal cleanup at Lake Sonoma. Students also cleaned up Doran Beach and other regional parks.

"The idea is to show what we can do when we work together for the community's good," Roth said. "JUMP is really excited to be partnered with United Way, and we hope to expand the program next year."

Mayor Gina Belforte, who helped usher in the day at the Rohnert Park Community Center, said programs like this are essential to keep the spirit of giving back alive, especially in tough economic times.

"Cities are in crisis," Belforte said. "They're helping us clean up our parks, creeks, pools and City Hall today. We don't have enough people or time or money to get to all this ourselves."

Belforte said she was astonished at how many students showed up.

csn_northhouse2.jpg"If you think about it, there's 4,000 hours of work being done today -- 500 volunteers putting in eight-hour work days," she added. "This is really big, it shows how engaged Sonoma State is and it says a lot about the character of the school."

Outside Rohnert Park City Hall, 14 volunteers from Lambda Theta Nu Sorority removed invasive plants, such as dandelion and bermuda grass, from the city grounds.

"Giving back is a cornerstone for our sorority," said Rose Recinos, president of the organization.

Laura Campbell, a maintenance worker from the city's Department of Public Works who oversaw the City Hall cleanup, said if it weren't for the volunteers, the work could take months.

"We're down to 37.5 hour weeks, so we just don't have enough people to get this work done," Campbell said. "We're spread very thin."

ABOVE, LEFT: Student volunteers at the Community Support Network's Northhouse Project.

Reposted with permission from rohnertpark.patch.com.

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