September 15, 2010
Not everyone heard about UCLA’s first Volunteer Day in 2009 ahead of time, but after 5,000 new Bruins cleaned Los Angeles from beaches to elementary schools to hiking trails, it was impossible not to hear about it – and impossible not to want to participate in the next one, according to some of this year’s team leaders.
“Everyone wants to help out,” said Erica Eddings, an outreach program coordinator in UCLA’s California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI). All 30 staffers at CNSI have signed up to be site leaders for the second annual Volunteer Day this Tuesday, Sept. 21. “Even when we didn’t know what project we would be working on, once we heard about last year’s Volunteer Day, we all agreed we wanted to be part of this one.”
An estimated 5,000 freshmen and transfer students will fan out across Los Angeles County on Tuesday, led by almost 1,000 staff, faculty, returning students and alumni for UCLA’s second annual Volunteer Day, the biggest student volunteer event of its kind. In a feat of logistics calling for military precision, ROTC cadets will guide the 6,000 volunteers onto 100 buses, which will transport them to 22 sites countywide.
CNSI’s volunteer team represents the largest group from a single campus unit, so UCLA’s Volunteer Center put them in charge of the day’s largest project: coordinating roughly 1,000 students in beach cleanups from Malibu to Redondo Beach. They’ll give 101 lifeguard tower railings a fresh coat of paint, pick up litter, paint a mural at the Santa Monica Pier and more.
“It’s huge,” said Jennifer Marcus, CNSI’s marketing and communications director and one of the center’s volunteers. “We’re really excited about it. CNSI has a reputation for planning a lot of events and getting involved in big, organized projects – conferences, seminar series, student activities – but this is by far the largest.”
The hallways are buzzing with talk about Volunteer Day, said Eddings. “We even had a day when we all went to check out the sites: where to meet our bus, which towers are ours,” she said. “It was really helpful. And really cold!”
Working with her colleagues will make Volunteer Day that much more meaningful, Eddings continued.
“With everybody involved, it makes it feel even more fun and important,” she said. “We’re working with the freshmen and the campus. It’s so beneficial. If every university did something like this every year, it would change so much.”
New employees are also getting involved. Andrea Delgado, who joined CNSI staff in August after graduating in June, jumped on board once she heard about Volunteer Day.
“I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so I intend to take care of this city,” Delgado said. “And it’s great to have a project to work on together. It can really foster some good experiences among the staff at CNSI.”
Cleaning the beach feels particularly apt, she said. “People come from all over the world to see California’s beaches,” Delgado said. “By keeping them clean, UCLA and CNSI are really doing something good.”
The new Bruins will also be cleaning and painting the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles; clearing fire-fueling brush from Griffith Park; gardening at a downtown senior center; and painting murals and doing other beautification projects at six Los Angeles Unified School District schools.
UCLA’s Volunteer Center, run by Antoinette Mongelli and David Bloome, coordinates the annual Volunteer Day. Last year’s successful event was widely covered in the news, such as in this CBS Evening News video, which raised awareness for volunteers this year. Hearing about last year’s projects spurred Rosina Becerra to volunteer this year.
“Last year, I didn’t know that much about it,” said Becerra, professor in the School of Public Affairs and UCLA’s outgoing vice-provost for faculty diversity and development. “But it was such a big success. So this year I thought it would be something I would really like to participate in and support. It’s important for the university to be out in the community, and it’s a way for me to both support the campus and participate with the students to help the community.”