Back in my day

Volunteering at the SLO Senior Center provides its own timeless experience.

Story highlights:

  • Reminiscing about the Senior Valentine’s Social
  • General volunteering opportunities at the Senior Center
  • Expectations every volunteer should have

Looking back at the Senior Valentine’s Social

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The Valentine’s Social, held at SLO Senior Center off of Santa Rosa St., has just kicked off.

Every surface was covered with either red or pink decorations. Music was playing, cupcakes were devoured, people were laughing, and the seniors were the liveliest part of the party.

It was post-Valentine’s Day, the optimum time to buy discounted candy and decorations, when a group of Cal Poly students threw the SLO Senior Center a Valentine’s themed event full of musical entertainment, games, food and more.

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Through RPTA 210: Introduction to Program Design, a course offered at Cal Poly, a group of students were assigned to put on a fun social event for the elder citizens of SLO. Besides preparing the event, students also had to volunteer time and effort to put on the event.

“We wanted to just give back to the community by celebrating the seniors basically and putting on an event for them,” said Emma Maltbaek, sophomore RPTA (recreation, park, and tourism administration) major.

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One of the elderly guest enjoys conversation with company at the Valentine’s social.

Maltbaek was in charge of the cupcake decoration station and, according to her, her favorite part of the event was when the seniors made it down her line and she got to make small talk with them. “Having one-on-one conversations with senior citizens was completely new to me,” said Maltbaek, since her grandparents live in England.

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Included in the fun was:

  • ring toss
  • mini bowling
  • corn toss
  • cupcake decoration competition
  • raffle
  • live musician
  • socializing 

More volunteering at the senior center

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Dave Setterlund, community services and events supervisor for San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation department, stated that there are a variety ways to volunteer at the SLO Senior Center.

The average volunteer, who picks certain hours to work, has typical duties such as:

  • working at the front desk
  • answering phone calls
  • opening the door
  • making coffee
  • greeting people

*Seniors mostly serve in this position, however it is open to a younger demographic

SLO Parks and Recreation Department will try and have three special events for the center annually. These are the events where the community reaches out to Cal Poly students, according to Setterlund. The events take place in Winter, late Spring and again in early Winter.

However, for those looking for more active involvement, Kristy Melchiorsen, recreation specialist for San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department, expressed that volunteers can even carry out programmed classes.

“It’s sort about bringing new life to already existing programs,” said Setterlund.

Mind the age gap

Go ahead and defy away! Volunteering your time with senior citizens lends itself to so many possibilities, if you know how to go about it.

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Whether you use these experiences and wisdom to navigate through the world of volunteerism, in the future you can look back at what has been learned here and proudly say, “Back in my day…”

Getting to the heart of it

Through a variety of perspectives, these three share their insights into volunteerism:

What was it like giving your time to the Senior Center?

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Emma Maltbaek, second year recreation, parks, and tourism administration major: “Well, this has changed my view because it was just such a simple activity just to go to the Senior Center and just be with them and hang out with them. It was only from 2-4, so it was two hours of my time, and it was just like, seeing as how effortless basically it was and just how easy it was just to be with them. Like volunteering can be as simple as just giving your time, and so I hope to do more in the future.”

Advice/expectations for volunteers:

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Kristy Melchiorsen, recreation specialist for San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department: “Wanting to be there, you know, because if somebody goes in there with the wrong attitude and their like ‘Oh I just have to get some hours, and I’ll just do this.’ Then they come with a bad attitude, then it’s not going to be joyful for anybody. So when you do volunteer, it’s good to volunteer with something that you’re interested in and you can enjoy it. Like Dave said, you’re in the right mindset, you’re excited about it,  you’re happy, you’re going to create a good experience for everybody.”

Why is volunteering so important?

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Dave  Setterlund, Community Services and Events Supervisor for San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department: “I think volunteering is a great way to reach out to your community. It’s a great way to learn about where you live, learn about yourself. You build new skills whether it be social, whether it be actual work experience, and it’s just a fantastic way to connect with your community, connect with people in your community, build new skills for yourself and learn a little bit. It’s just a good way to broaden your horizons and hopefully the people around you, their horizons as well.”

The United Way

An understanding behind the work of United Way SLO.

Story highlights:

  • A look back at the roots of United Way
  • The meaning of volunteering to United Way
  • Opportunities to volunteer the united way
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United Way SLO is dedicated to bettering the community’s quality of life by supporting: education, income, and health.

Reverting to the origin

United Way is a national organization that has planted many of its seeds around the country before planting one in San Luis Obispo.

The history of the national organization goes as far back as 1887. A priest, two ministers, and a rabbi skipped the bar and recognized the need to address local welfare. Thus, the birth of a movement to unite relief efforts and support communities.

Almost a hundred years later, the project reached San Luis Obispo around 1989, according to Rachel Cementina, United Way SLO projects coordinator.

United Way is a collaborative effort that gives opportunities to those in need of help and those who want to help. Volunteering is vital for United Way to carry out their programs, without volunteers, programs could not afford to run, Cementina said.

Where does help start?

Volunteers may traverse the county, but it's in the office where it is all made possible.

Volunteers may traverse the county, but it’s in the office where it is all made possible.

United Way strives to improve the three staples of any quality life in America: education, income, and health. Many events and programs have been created to enhance these aspects of life. However, the organization also focuses on general community involvement.

Volunteering not only helps those less fortunate but it also helps United Way stay functioning. It is vital to United Way because without volunteers, the programs could not afford to keep on running, said Cementina.

On the emotional aspect however, it also helps you reconnect to what’s been given to you, said Monique Tafoya, volunteer coordinator.

“I think it’s very important to give back to the community that gives to you,”  Tafoya

Volunteering benefits witnessed by United Way staff include personal satisfaction, learning, and experience to put on a resume.

Cementina and Tafoya both reflect on crystallizing moments they experienced with United Way.

The little boy and his suit jacket

“You see these kids come out of the store smiling ear to ear because they just had a half hour or an hour in the store with someone who cares about them, with someone who’s focused just on them. There was one particular boy two years ago who came out of the store in a tuxedo coat, or a suit coat. he was the most adorable squatty little kid and he came out with his volunteer who says, ‘I just couldn’t say no!’ He came out so excited and modeled it to his mom. It was something mom probably could neer afford for him. And the confidence he got from that day… who knows where it could take him.”

Rachel Cementina has been actively in the volunteer industry for six years and says, “That was one of those memorable moments that made it worth it to me.”

The volunteer who stayed

“I think back to the last night we were there at the Remnants of the Past. I know we were kind of in a bit of a scramble because, ‘we may not have volunteers for the last hour portion.’ I remember one volunteer. He was there on Thursday, he was there on Friday, on Saturday, and on Sunday, then he ended up staying like an extra two hours with the two of us (even though he was told he was able to go). Just to see the volunteer sprit of people like, ‘No, I want to keep helping out,’ and to know that at the end, because of all the hard work, tip money would go directly to the Imagination Library. Then to have the satisfaction that by the end of the program we were able to fund ten more kids that would be getting those books… I think that was probably the best for me.”

Opportunities galore

Monique Tafoya is currently directing the VolunteerSLO website.

Monique Tafoya is currently directing the VolunteerSLO website.

Recently, United Way has taken over VolunteerSLO, a website designed to help volunteers find opportunities to give back.

The website is overseen by Tafoya and can be used to find specific events to attend or on-going programs that are in need of assistance.

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Rachel, and other staff, eagerly work to provide a variety of community involvement options.

Volunteer events with United Way include:

  • Flavor of SLO
  • Kidspree
  • Youth Board
  • Monet Talks for Teens
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Volunteering by yourself can be a challenging,  but maybe a united approach is an option.

For more information on United Way click here.

Watch this video for an overview of the programs:

Living in the Meow

 

An inside look at what it’s really like to volunteer at the Cal Poly Cat Program.

Story highlights:

  • Insight to the cat program’s purpose and creation
  • Looking through volunteers’ perspectives
  • Advice for anyone looking to get involved
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Barnes, once a stray, enjoys the newfound home the Cal Poly Cat Program has given him.

Back to the Beginning 

The cat program that Cal Poly knows today was actually Garrett Quindimill’s senior project in 1992. Before the days of the cat shelter, Cal Poly suffered from a rampant cat problem, according to Ellen Noterman, a volunteering coordinator and member of the original team.

Caught feral cats would be trapped and euthanized constantly by the local Department of Animal Regulations, until TTVMAR (Test, Trap, Vaccinate, Medicate, Alter, and Release) methods were practiced. Cal Poly used TTVMAR as a model on how to handle the cat population and avoid killing so many cats.

“Oh yeah, before there used to be hundreds of feral cats running around,” – Noterman

A second senior project made it possible for the cats to be domesticated and adopted out to loving new homes. Other senior projects have continued to upgrade the program’s services.

Today, the estimated feral cat population on campus is at 60; an dramatic drop since the early 90’s. They continue to strive to find and nurture these lost creatures.

Through the volunteers’ perspectives

Socializing with the cats is just one of the "finer" duties available.

Socializing with the cats is just one of the “finer” duties available.

Allison Quantz (first year Ag. business major) Maddie Pomaro (first year theater major), were looking to get more involved Winter quarter when they, and other friends, stumbled upon the opportunity at the cat shelter.

“We thought it would be kind of cool because we all have cats at home, and are kind of weird, and crazy cat ladies.”-Quantz

Once there, Allison and Maddie learned what some of the duties entailed.
Duties of a volunteer include, but are not limited to:

  • cleaning cages
  • replacing food/water
  • cleaning litter boxes
  • doing laundry
  • brush cats’ hair
  • socialize, play, and hang out with the cats

“But if you really want the experience you can wipe Fat James’ (cat with a broken sphincter) butt,” said Quantz.

The experience of a volunteer is filled with both fluffy goodness and gross complications.

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At the end of the day, Allison and Maddie were still happy they went to help. “I made a kitty cat friend, and he made it all worth it,” said Pomaro.

Advice for future volunteers

While playing with cats may sound like fun in paradise to some, volunteers must still be aware of responsibilities and risks.

Stay safe: Working with animals is always a testy field, sometimes involving surprise hospital trips. Animal involvement is required so being more cautious of animals’ moods and body language is the biggest and most general tip to remember.

Keep it clean: Not only do some of the cats have severe hygiene maintenance, but they come into contact with almost everything within the vicinity. Be sure to wash used materials and hands frequently to avoid harmful germs.

Roxy

Cats, like Roxy, are happy to have a home and are very friendly towards new visitors.

There are no prerequisites needed to volunteer, anyone can find out more about volunteering by clicking here.

For anyone who is looking to give back by helping animals, this may be the purrfect chance to do so.

Check out the famous Fat James cat here!

Cal Poly Volunteerism: Learn by doing good

San Luis Obispo offers many outside opportunities to get involved, but for Cal Poly students inside the educational system, finding those resources may take a bit of guidance…
Opportunities lie right here on campus for Cal Poly students (like these, above, in the SUSTAIN program) that are looking for chances to give back to the community.

Opportunities lie right here on campus for Cal Poly students (like these, above, in the SUSTAIN program) that are looking for chances to give back to the community.

The center for Community Engagement (located in room 217 of the UU) is a place for interested students to pursue their passion for public service.

The Center for Community Engagement (located in room 217 of the UU) is a place for interested students to pursue their passion for public service. It has several branches for students to help out a cause for their passion (i.e. homelessness, environment, underprivileged kids, and animals).

Joy Harkins, the coordinator for Community Engagement, helps students meet their desires to serve the community while they also meet their educational needs. "Volunteering is a great way for students to build their resume and it's great social support, which I actually think is an overlooked benefit."

Joy Harkins, the coordinator for Community Engagement, was a college volunteer herself and recognized that serving others can also serve yourself. “Volunteering is a great way for students to build their resume and it’s great social support, which I actually think is an overlooked benefit.”

A great chance for students to take community involvement into their own hands is by joining one of the center's branches: Student Community services.

A great chance for students to take community involvement into their own hands is by joining one of the center’s branches: Student Community Services. The SCS has eight different student-run programs that range from youth programs to environmental council.

“I think it’s important for students to realize e not only contribute just our time and dedication towards school but that we also have to channel our energy into other facets within our community.” Kendall Smith, a director coordinator for the SCS, has been working with the program for three years and strives to be "more than just a student."

“I think it’s important for students to realize we not only contribute just our time and dedication towards school, but that we also have to channel our energy into other facets within our community.” Kendall Smith (fourth year, biology major), a director coordinator for the SCS, has been working with the program for three years and strives to be “more than just a student.”

The Cal Poly Cat Program is one of the SCS' many partners. [Three girls looking to give back  gave fat cat James attention he LITTERally could not get enough of!]

[Three girls looking to help the animal community gave fat cat James attention he LITTER-ally could not get enough of!] The Cal Poly Cat Program is just one of SCS’ many partners that students can volunteer at.

Lizette Cruz is one of (probably) many students that like community service and look forward to finding paths to help out.

Lizette Cruz, is a first year and is also (probably) one of many students that like community service and look forward to finding paths to help out. SCS will be there if she goes to them to take involvement to the next level.

For all of those lost souls (Cal Poly students) looking to contribute to meaningful social change, refrain from "learn by doing. Instead, adopt this: Learn by doing good.

“Learn by doing” is yesterday’s motto, but the mantra for today’s students looking to instill meaningful social change is: “Learn by doing good.”