In 2012, Fresno State exceeded one million hours of community service for the third straight year.
The Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning is a place where students of all backgrounds and interests can volunteer to help out around the community.
Chris Fiorentino, director at the center, said there are hundreds of opportunities for students, and volunteering can benefit everyone involved.
“The research has shown that service is a great way for students to develop academically, personally and professionally,” Fiorentino said.
On top of personal development, there are other benefits to helping in the community.
“Our students are transforming individuals’ lives out in the community through their service work, and the students’ lives are being transformed,” Fiorentino said.
Richter Center ambassador Daniel Ward said the work he did at the Alluvial Community Garden was both meaningful and rewarding.
“We gave it a fresh coat of paint and made it look like it was actually being used,” Ward said. “It’s really cool to still drive by there.”
Although he is busy, Ward said it is easy to make time for helping out others.
“It’s really about time management,” he said. “If you make something a priority, you’ll be able to do it. Think about people who have significant others or spend a lot of time with their family. It’s because that’s a priority in their life that they‘re able to make it work. So if you realize the value of service and being a champion for serving others, then you’re going to find time to do it.”
Ward said the event, “Alternative Spring Break,” is when he really began to value serving the community. The program gives students a chance to work on a project in the community with peers during spring break.
“Four eight-hour days of priming and preparing this building to be painted—it was that event that really made me understand,” he said. “You’re out there in the sun, you’re working hard, and you start to get a little frustrated. But if you sit and you reflect and you talk about it with others, you start to realize that there are others who are really going to benefit from the work that you’re putting in, that did it for me.”
Ward said that he has met many of his good friends through the service projects he has done with the center.
Emily Hentschke, Richter Center ambassador and Service Experience with Richter Volunteer Events (SERVE) committee member, is from the Sacramento area and wanted to “get to know Fresno better and give back,” so she got involved with the center.
She said SERVE has three single-day service events per year. After these events students can go back to the site of the event throughout the year and continue to work on projects and also show others what they did.
“There are so many different kinds of opportunities,” she said. “If you wanted to just volunteer for one day or one weekend, we have a bunch of different events like kid’s day.”
Kids day is March 5, when hundreds of volunteers take part in selling newspapers for $1. Hentschke said last year on Kids Day Fresno State raised more than $30,000 for Children’s Hospital Central California.
Center ambassador Miguel Vieira said volunteering is important in building relationships and meeting a diverse group of people.
“I believe it helps build character. It helps with your team building skills,” he said. “It helps you learn to be part of a team.”
Vieira said working to make a difference in a person’s life and seeing the impact is satisfying and he hopes to have others help him in the future when he has kids.
Offering advice, he said to be open to new experiences.
“Try not to give yourself excuses to not participate, to not help others,” he said. “A quote that I like is, ‘If you’re able to help others do so, so if one day you’re in need you’ll be grateful to those who help you.’