Volunteer service by Fresno State students, faculty, staff and administrators exceeded 1 million hours for the third straight year and the number of individuals participating in volunteer community work also grew in 2011-12.

Service hours totaled 1,129,004, up from 1,053,481 in 2010-11. The volunteer work was done by 16,405 people, which included 16,258 of the approximately 21,000 students. In the previous year, nearly 14,000 members of the Fresno State community volunteered time with nonprofit community benefit organizations, churches and community events.

According to philanthropic standards, the estimated economic impact of Fresno State’s community service was greater than $28.5 million.

Much of Fresno State’s volunteer efforts are coordinated through the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning, directed by Chris Fiorentino.

During the 2012-13 academic year, Fiorentino said, “We hope to maintain much of the same great energy that has helped realize our past accomplishments. Certainly, we will be striving to do 1 million hours again next year.”

Fiorentino added, “The total hour count is not nearly as important as the lives that are impacted by our service initiatives, including our students who learn and grow from being involved in service and those who benefit from the students’ work in the community.”

One of the most extensive projects during 2011-12 was Revitalize the Fresno State Community, spawned by students, that “has had some impressive impacts in the neighborhoods,” said Fiorentino.

The work in the El Dorado Park area west of campus and south of Shaw Avenue across from campus was undertaken by students, faculty, staff and administrators. Some of the students are residents of or live near those areas. Campus volunteers helped build a playground, develop a Neighborhood Watch organization and participate in multiple community clean-ups, food distribution, community dinners and more. University Police Department leaders, faculty and students worked with neighborhood groups to meet challenges.

Another noteworthy accomplishment was in the university’s service-learning commitment. There were increases over 2010-11 in service-learning courses (147 sections, up 4 percent); 4,076 students enrolled (11.8 percent greater) and 110,394 hours (up 19.4 percent) increase).

Service-learning incorporates community service related to class content as a requirement of an academic course. An example is the Humanics Students4Giving Philanthropy Project, part of Students4Giving, a national initiative of the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and Campus Compact.

Incorporated in the “Philanthropy and Grant Making” sociology course, the project provides students hands-on experiences in philanthropy and leadership, said Dr. Matthew Jendian, the department chair and director of Fresno State’s American Humanics program. Students “develop contacts with community benefit organizations, assess community needs, and learn how to request and evaluate funding proposals,” Jendian added.

In the program’s six years, more than 180 students have awarded $50,000 to 17 different organizations, including Fresno’s Rotary Storyland, Break the Barriers, the Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership, Valley Teen Ranch and the Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention. A companion course, “Grant Writing & Evaluation,” teaches students how to evaluate the impact of their grants and the importance of good stewardship by the grant recipients.

Among other Fresno State volunteer service highlights:

  • Campus blood drives drew donations from 2,425 people and many students volunteered logistical support for the drives at Fresno State.
  • With 1,235 Fresno State students helping, the university raised a record $36,323 for Children’s Hospital Central California during Kids Day newspaper sales.
  • The university-wide effort, led by President John D. Welty, to participate in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies drew an estimated 2,000 members of the Fresno State community, who raised approximately $57,000.

This year’s service efforts began during the summer break. Students involved in the Revitalize project began serving the community a week before classes started after vandals broke into a church storeroom and stole donated food intended for a neighborhood dinner. Students asked Me ‘n’ Ed’s pizza to donate 25 pies and delivered them to the church to serve children from the El Dorado Park neighborhood.

Just ahead is the launch of the Scholars in Service Program. It will provide eligible students an opportunity to enhance their academic study with community service experiences related to their academic major and/or prospective career. In addition to other requirements, students must complete 90 hours of service per semester to earn a $1,000 grant.

Students and others in the campus community will attend the community Service Opportunities Fair, scheduled 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29, in front of the Kennel Bookstore to find out about dozens of volunteer opportunities with community benefit organizations.

More information is available by contacting Fiorentino, chrisf@csufresno.edu, or Jendian, matthewj@csufresno.edu.

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