Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications
On the second Thursday of each month, a group of UC San Diego volunteers meets in the evenings at the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank to help sort through donations and assemble food packages for San Diego community members in need. Vanessa Pool, project manager at the Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of Calit2, started the UC San Diego Night at the Food Bank in June 2008.
What began as a group of service-minded staff members within Pool’s department has expanded into a campus-wide opportunity to give back. Word of mouth about the volunteer group, as well as partnerships with the UC San Diego Staff Association and Volunteer50, has helped to grow the program over the past five years.
Following is a sampling of service and community outreach events to get involved with this holiday season.
Friday, Nov. 22
Thanksgiving Exchange: Applications for Volunteer Host Families Due
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 8-10 p.m.
Gift Wrapping Workshop for “Operation Santa”
Price Center East Ballroom
Wednesday, Dec. 11, 7-9 a.m.
Veterans Association Clothing Drive and UC San Diego Staff Association Toy Drive
Price Center Ballroom
Visit the Staff Association on Blink to learn more.
Thursday, Dec. 12, 6-8 p.m.
UC San Diego Night at the Food Bank
Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank
Saturday, Dec. 14, 8:30-11 a.m.
Wreaths Across America Ceremonial Wreath Laying
Miramar National Cemetery
“It’s a great experience,” says Pool. “I think that a lot of the volunteers come away with a sense of gratitude.”
The Food Bank reports that more than 446,000 people live below the poverty level in San Diego County and face “food insecurity,” meaning that little or no food is available at home and they do not always know where they will find their next meal. The Food Bank provides food to 330 nonprofit partners that operate feeding programs, including soup kitchens, shelters, churches, schools, and senior and disabled living facilities.
Volunteering at the Food Bank is just one of the many ways that the UC San Diego community is giving back this holiday season.
At the International Center, the third annual Thanksgiving Exchange is taking place. The program gives international students the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with an American host family in the San Diego area. More than 70 students and 30 host families have already signed up to participate this year.
Host families invite two or more international UC San Diego students into their homes for a Thanksgiving meal and to learn about each other’s cultures and traditions. Visits range from helping with cooking the meal to simply socializing and enjoying the traditional feast together.
The Van de Wiele family, from Clairemont, hosted two students from China last year. “Sharing what we have is the essence of Thanksgiving, and we were so glad to share the day with Sichen and Ziwen,” said Hope Van de Wiele. “We had so much fun that we had them over again to decorate our Christmas tree!”
Reaching out to San Diego families in need, UC San Diego’s service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega is once again organizing “Operation Santa” to provide food and gifts in time for the holidays. The families served are selected from nominations received during October and early November. Many of the families reached through “Operation Santa” are led by single mothers as well as those who are victims of domestic violence, facing illness, experiencing the loss of a family member or are struggling financially. The fraternity organizes fundraisers, toy drives and gift wrapping sessions to help bring holiday joy to those who need it most in San Diego. Through “Operation Santa,” Alpha Phi Omega encourages the campus to start the holiday season off right and give back to the community.
Multiple campus groups are also remembering veterans this holiday season. On Saturday, Dec. 14, UC San Diego’s Volunteer50 is partnering with Wreaths Across America—San Diego for a wreath laying ceremony at Miramar National Cemetery. The annual event pays tribute to those who have served in the military with a formal ceremony followed by the placement of holiday wreaths upon the grave sites of veterans.
Back on campus, the UC San Diego Veterans Staff and Faculty Association is collecting toiletries and clothing for Veteran’s Village of San Diego, an effort that will make a difference for many homeless male and female veterans in San Diego County.
Throughout the year, UC San Diego’s Volunteer50 encourages the campus community to keep the spirit of giving. Originally established as part of UC San Diego’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, Volunteer50: Chancellor’s Call to Service promotes year-round community service and recognizes individuals for their volunteer contributions. Individuals can choose to participate in a Volunteer50 sponsored event, or volunteer on their own with a nonprofit of their choice. Those who volunteer and record their service hours through Volunteer50 are eligible for prize drawings and recognized at the end of the academic year. To participate, staff, faculty, students, alumni and campus friends can sign up here.
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