Sophomore Bianca Rose had a chance to share her love of volunteering with other Sonoma State University students one recent Saturday as a site leader at Kid Street Learning Center, a school for at-risk youth in Santa Rosa.
Her job was to unite the group through service and restore the non-profit's garden, which feeds Kid Street's students and their families.
Rose was among the more than 550 SSU students who spent their Saturday assisting with 24 different volunteer projects with area non-profits in am annual program called Sonoma Serves. For the third year, Join Us Making Progress (JUMP), the hub for volunteerism and community service on campus, hosted this "day of caring".
From cleaning up local waterways and parks to harvesting vegetables, housing restoration, sorting and packaging food, and numerous other tasks, SSU students worked to provide volunteer manpower to support the vital projects of local non-profits. It partners with the United Way to make Oct. 6 a day of "giving back" to the community.
Rose said everyone in her group was excited about the project and that "Sonoma Serves is very special and powerful to me because it brings a broad array of students together for the purpose of helping others."
"We had a lot of positive influence on the community," said JUMP Community Service Coordinator Genevieve Sullivan. "I know that we had a couple creek and waterway clean ups that went really well. We had a group go to and work at Canine Companions in Santa Rosa and had a great time... and overall it was just a really successful event, it went really smoothly."
Hundreds of SSU students woke up early on Saturday and traveled across campus in the cold, early morning fog to the main quad for registration, followed by a kick-off rally where SSU president Ruben Armiñana, Associated Students President Karen Paniagua, and Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie addressed the mass of eager students.
Why active citizenship is an important asset to the students and the community is a common theme of the remarks. From the kick-off rally, students went off to their volunteer projects of choice.
Some of the area non-profits involved include the Redwood Empire Food Bank, the Northern California Center for Well-Being, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Santa Rosa and many more. Student organizations such as Freshman Interest Groups (FIG), Associated Students Productions (ASP), Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and the Biology Club volunteered at various sites.
"Neighbors and the City of Santa Rosa are extremely grateful for the students volunteering their time to take care of the our creeks," said Alistair Bleifuss, Environmental Specialist of the City of Santa Rosa Creek Stewardship Program.
"Thanks to the good spirits, fantastic energy, and hard work of SSU's volunteers we accomplished much more than expected. The creek and trails are now much cleaner for wildlife inhabitants."
Sonoma County Regional Parks representative Corbin Johnson said "the work tasks performed by the students may not have been categorized as fun in all cases, however the students powered through without a hitch and accomplished tasks we badly needed help in achieving," Johnson said.
"Morale was high, camaraderie was in the air, and it was wonderful to see everyone supporting their team to see how much they could achieve as a group."
United Way Development Officer Jenny Chamberlain assisted JUMP in the planning of Sonoma Serves. She said "the students of Sonoma State University have once again shown our community their true spirit of volunteerism by giving back the community. Their enthusiasm to volunteer has really set the bar for all community members to follow."
For further information, contact Genevieve Sullivan, Community Service Coordinator for JUMP at (707) 664-4277 or visit their website at www.sonoma.edu/as/jump.
Photo: SSU students descended on the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Center like super heroes as part of the Day of Caring by Sonoma Serves. Making light work of weeding at the Petaluma Rebuilding together site. (Photos courtesy of United Way)
by Sarah Dowling