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Even if a donation to a local nonprofit is hard to spare, there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference by volunteering. According to many of these organizations, a donation of one’s time is often more helpful, as they depend on the work of community members to operate.
For Cal Poly students interested in getting involved, many opportunities are available right on campus. Student Community Services (SCS) links participants with a number of volunteer programs and organizes events which put students at the forefront of dealing with important issues affecting the community.
Throughout this week, SCS is seeking volunteers for a number of events dealing with homelessness in San Luis Obispo. The 11th annual Homelessness Awareness Week kicked off Sunday with a Walk to Fight Homelessness at Mitchell Park. Through Friday, SCS is also sponsoring a clothing drive on Dexter Lawn from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other SCS events this week include a presentation about the Homeless Enumeration Project by presenter Jesse Huselid for the weekly Soup & Substance forum on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to noon in University Union, room 204. On Wednesday, students will serve breakfast at the Prado Day Center, and later view a screening of the film “Suckerfish” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dexter Lawn, followed by an overnight Sleep-Out, which simulates a night without a home.
On Thursday, students are urged to donate to the local overflow shelter by purchasing a button made by local homeless children at the Developing Through Art Button Sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the UU Plaza. Students will be serving dinner Friday at the Maxine Lewis Shelter, from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and helping to make minor repairs to the shelter Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information on SCS events and volunteer programs, drop by room 217 of the UU, or visit their Web site at scs.calpoly.edu.
SCS also encourages students to participate in the Environmental Council, a program that works with Cal Poly and local organizations to help address environmental issues affecting the local community. The Council organizes volunteer events such as beach clean-ups, tree plantings and work days at Cal Poly’s organic farm. Their monthly beach clean-ups at Avila Beach take place the first Saturday of every month (the next one is May 2). Volunteers who want to bike to the beach meet in the Administration parking lot at 9:15 a.m. and a carpool arrives at 10:15 a.m. For more information about the Council’s activities, stop by SCS or call (805)756-5834.
There are also a number of volunteer organizations off-campus which deal with local environmental issues. Pacific Wildlife Care of San Luis Obispo County, for example, seeks volunteers to help rehabilitate and return to the wild injured or orphaned animals as well as raise awareness within the community about respect for wildlife and the environment.
The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County is another nonprofit that has worked for over 25 years to enhance and protect local land with important scenic, ecological and agricultural value for people and wildlife. For those who enjoy the beaches of the Central Coast, the San Luis Bay chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is always looking for volunteers to assist in beach clean-ups, water testing and event staffing.
Students who had to leave a pet at home and are in need of their animal fix, there are a number of animal shelters seeking volunteers, including one on campus. The Cal Poly Cat Shelter offers students the opportunity to care for felines that have been abandoned or are too old to live outside. According to Edie Griffin-Shaw, director of the shelter, volunteer activities can also benefit a student’s academic career.
“It’s a great place to volunteer for people who love animals and maybe miss their pets,” Griffin-Shaw said. “We also have lots of opportunities for people doing special topics courses and senior projects. At one point, we had a construction management major build our old shelter. We also had our Web site re-done as a project. So there are many ways students can help.”
Call (805) 756-5220 to volunteer.
In addition, the San Luis Obispo Animal Shelter and Woods Humane Society are always in need of volunteers to assist in daily operations. At Woods, volunteers are needed to spend time with, walk and bathe dogs and cats. After a little training, volunteers are able to walk dogs off-site to places like downtown or the beach. Volunteers at Woods also participate in pet visitations, where they take dogs to nursing homes and retirement homes.
There are also plenty of ways for students to have a positive influence in the lives of local youths. One such opportunity is to volunteer at Big Brothers and Sisters of San Luis Obispo County, where participants spend six to eight hours a month with local children in need of positive role models. According to Program Director Sarah Rudd-Lawlor, the organization pairs mentors and children with similar interests.
“I originally got involved as a Big Sister,” Rudd-Lawlor said. “It was great because you’re doing things you’re already interested in and sharing that experience with children. It’s a fun way to spend a weekend and you’re doing things with kids in common interests. I found it incredibly rewarding.”
She said that one mentor recently commented that setting aside fun time with his little brother is really setting aside fun time for himself, and that he loves being able to act like a kid again without getting funny looks from people.
To get involved with Big Brothers San Luis Obispo, visit http://www.slobigs.org, or call (805) 781-3226.
For more information on these — and many more — volunteer programs, visit http://www.volunteerslo.org, an online directory of opportunities in San Luis Obispo County.