Too many helping hands. This isn’t a typical problem in volunteer work, but is one Cal Poly currently faces with a local day of service.
The San Luis Obispo community will be participating in Make A Difference Day, a day in which people all over the nation lend a helping hand in their community.
The 14th annual Make A Difference Day is a national holiday created by USA Weekend magazine. Each year, the event happens on the fourth Saturday of October, this year landing on Oct. 27.
Cal Poly’s Center for Community Engagement already as 800 volunteers signed up to participate, despite there only being 500 spots available, according to Student Life and Leadership (SLL) assistant coordinator Matthew Melendrez.
“Our goal at minimum is 400 volunteers throughout the county — last year we had over 600,” Melendrez said. “I want to fall somewhere between 500 to 600 spots available.”
Many of these spots are taken up by fraternities and sororities who typically have a group of a hundred or more people registered. Melendrez is impressed by the amount of greek life involvement, but plans to ask the groups to decrease the number of volunteers so smaller groups that are registered have an opportunity to participate as well.
“I think the greek community has grown more, and so we also see more of the greek community involved. They make up a huge portion of our volunteering, which is amazing,” Melendrez said.
Week of Welcome (WOW) Day of Service was another event this year that saw a high number of volunteers.
SLL Coordinator of Orientation Programs Jason Mockford said 200 WOW groups signed up to volunteer during the week, but the program had to turn away approximately 75 of these groups.
“It’s part of the same issue, there are a lot of people who want to do service and can’t,” Mockford said. “I think Make A Difference Day might be affected by the fact that some people are saying they wanted to do service during WOW, but they couldn’t, so they’ll try Make A Difference day instead.”
Students volunteer efforts are sometimes overlooked by some community members, Mockford said, but there are community members who are grateful for student involvement. The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden (SLOBG) is participating in Make A Difference Day this year. SLOBG Director of Volunteers Kristina Van Wert said SLOBG employees look for student interest to help keep the garden progressing since it was once a Cal Poly student’s senior project.
“We are always looking to try to get more involved with Cal Poly and its students,” Van Wert said. “So they know we exist, and also so they can help join us in the long term vision we have here at the garden.”
Regardless of how community members may view Cal Poly student involvement, students are still motivated to contribute to their new home. WOW experienced double the interest in what the program has seen in years past and Make A Difference Day this year has far exceeded last year’s numbers.
Mockford said he thinks this new interest in volunteering has something to do with the new standards high school students are accustomed to before entering college.
“I think a lot of students do service back home before they come here, it’s just a part of what you do,” Mockford said. “Here on campus it’s a great student experience that is very visible. It is part of the culture here at Cal Poly to give back.”