Donating time

Students pledge volunteer hours at Richter Center’s ‘Picture the Change’ event

Students milled around dozens of booths in the Satellite Student Union last Wednesday at the Richter Center’s “Picture the Change” 6th Annual Services to the Community Expo, exploring all the local volunteer opportunities available.

Among all the basic booths for different organizations was something unique—a photo booth where students and faculty who had pledged to spend a certain number of hours serving the community could have their picture taken by Richter Center ambassadors.

These ambassadors, who comprise the community service center’s student leadership board, proved to be quite the photographers as students lined up to pose alongside their pledges.

Cassidy Smith, a sophomore mass communication and journalism major with an emphasis in broadcast journalism and the ambassador behind the “Picture the Change” debut event, said coordinating the event took several brainstorming sessions.

“It started out as a couple of ideas we were throwing around,” Smith said. “We thought of it as not only a way of introducing the ambassadors to Fresno State, but also as a fun way for students to take part in serving their community.”

Smith said she is proud of the job she and her fellow ambassadors are doing.

“We all have different majors and backgrounds and I’m proud of our diversity,” Smith said.

“We’d like to serve as a liaison to encourage other students to volunteer and we hope to make ourselves as available as possible.”

Students and community

Mellissa Jessen, assistant director for the Richter Center, sees “Picture the Change” as an opportunity for the university to challenge itself and positively impact the community.

“Our goal is to have 1 million hours of volunteer service completed annually by 2011,” Jessen said. “I think it’s nice that people make donations to causes, but it’s an easy way to keep yourself distanced from the community. Volunteering shortens that distance.”

Jessen said that participating students will have a chance to see their portraits posted on the Richter Center’s blog and have a chance to fulfill those pledges.

“We actually plan to do a follow-up with the students at the end of the semester to see if they stuck to their pledges,” Jessen said.

Something for everyone

There were several different organizations, such as Arte Americas, Read Fresno and Hinds Hospice, on hand to provide information and answer questions about volunteering opportunities.

Jen Anderson, lead program assistant at Read Fresno, was pleased with the turnout. “This is our second time here and so far, so good,” she said. “It’s proving to be a very organized and concise service fair.”

Not to mention a way to promote an abundance of causes.

Hinds Hospice Thrift Store manager Mal Sullivan stressed the importance of spreading the word.

“We’ve been doing these expos for about four years now and we have seen at least 50 to 60 volunteers pass through our doors,” Sullivan said.

“A lot of these volunteers actually put me down as a job reference on their resumes.”

Jessen said having a variety of organizations at the event is key because students can volunteer for organizations that give them valuable experience for the field they plan to go into or are interested in.

“There are about 50 agencies here with a range of different services. This allows students to volunteer with something where their passions lie,” Jessen said.

“The best thing with ‘Picture the Change,’ though, is that once someone makes a pledge and takes a photo, all the organizations are there so they can turnaround and fullfil that promise automatically.”

87 students pledge to serve

Over at the “Picture the Change” station, Smith was all smiles. “We’ve gotten over 30 pledges in the last hour,” she said, as she surveyed the crowd. “It started out a little slow, but the line just keeps getting longer.”

At the end of the day, 87 pledges were made, which Smith said is a great start.

She has no doubt that “Picture the Change” will prove to be a successful venture. “The expo is a great venue to test drive it and see how it’s received. Eventually, though, we’d like to see ‘Picture the Change’ as a standalone event to collect as many pledges as we can,” Smith said.

“It’s really a group effort: It’s everybody coming together to serve their community.”

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