It’s that time of year again! Mark your calendars for March 8, 2016. It is a day dedicated to the kids at Valley Children’s Hospital, also known as Kids Day. This is the 29th year that thousands of volunteers all across the Central Valley team up with Valley Children’s Hospital, The Fresno Bee, and ABC30 to sell Kids Day edition newspapers to the community. Last year over 1,400 Fresno State students, faculty, and staff participated in this event and raised over $41,000. We are hoping to do our best to exceed these numbers this year.
If you are looking for a way to get involved you can: (1) donate $1 and buy a newspaper around campus, (2) help sell papers by signing up with a student club/organization or as an individual here, or (3) Help spread the word and recruit volunteers by sharing this information with your peers.
Prepare yourself, every year the Richter Center has a friendly competition and recognizes the top-selling student organizations on campus. So the time is now! If you or your organization is interested in taking part be sure and sign up before March 1st. If you have any questions contact Madison at email@example.com or 559.278.7079
I personally remember getting up early and selling newspapers for my high school a few years ago. It is always so much fun to see how energetic people can be at 5 a.m. especially for such a good cause. I cannot wait to be a part of Fresno State’s Kids Day and see the outcome we will have this year! Let’s get ready to serve, sell, and smile.
How will you contribute to Kids Day 2k16? Do you have an memories from volunteering at this event previously?
The new year enables everyone to aspire for good health, spend more time with family, and other blessings. However, many people may take their blessings for granted and may never give back to those they are grateful for.
In 2006, my father was diagnosed with stage three cirrhosis of the liver, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. My entire family was shaken to its foundation and for several years, we struggled immensely with his illness. In November of 2013, I lost my dad to alcoholism. This was without a doubt the hardest moment of my life.
In hopes of giving back, I took on an internship at WestCare Foundation. West Care is a national non-profit organization that helps individuals in the community struggling with addiction. Their facilities provide care through prevention education, housing, mental health crisis, intervention, and outpatient and residential treatment. My father spent time at two rehabilitation centers here in Fresno, Nuestra Casa, which focused on Hispanic males, and West Care. Initially, I was placed in the same residential program where my dad stayed in; however, I have recently spent more time volunteering in the women’s unit. These women and men both struggle with a range of different substances and are admitted there for health and/or legal concerns. Although West Care is an in-patient residential program, they have a walk out policy where clients can leave if they choose to do so. This rehabilitation center is divided into two sides for men and women. Some women and men have children, who may also reside with them during their time at the center.
In the beginning of October, I began my journey at West Care by doing minor tasks that later progressed to assisting in the completion of client questionnaires. This internship quickly showed me the pros and cons of what living in a rehabilitation center could be like. Although I knew what it was like to be around someone who struggled with substance addiction, I quickly realized this type of work was completely different than what I was used to. I’m currently in my last year at Fresno State, majoring in Liberal Studies with much of my work involving education and schooling. However since day one, I felt like WestCare would allow me to grow in areas that were foreign to me. After my third visit, I became familiar with the clients’ daily routine. The women there quickly grew fond of me and working with them has definitely been an enjoyable learning experience.
One memory I recall that puts a smile on my face was when I spent my Halloween serving at West Care. I brought candy for the clients and their children. The families that came to visit told me, “Thank you. Some of these children might not even be able to go trick-or-treating tonight.” This was such a rewarding moment for me to know that something as small as candy would make someone’s day. I was truly touched. Therefore, it has been so gratifying to put smiles on the faces of the women and children.
In the last several years, Fresno County has increased the number of people admitted to treatment centers. Substance abuse has been known to not only hurt the individual, but their loved ones as well. While at West Care, I gained a deeper appreciation for what centers like this do for people struggling with addictions in their lives. West Care has been a great place to learn more about what is being done for people who deal with these issues and I truly believe this is a great way to help our community. I want to thank West Care for allowing me to complete an internship there and for the care they provided my dad while he spent time there as a patient.
It feels so empowering to share my story! I hope that this blog draws awareness to these issues and can help motivate others to try to step out of their comfort zones and serve the community at large in different ways.
“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference.” ~St. Maximilian Kolbe
This quote fascinated and perplexed me the moment I chanced upon it. I agree with the saint that the “not my problem” mentality is probably the most vicious problem we face as a society. Think about it: if every person chose to use his or her gifts and talents to the fullest and stopped ignoring the barrage of global challenges we face, many problems would be solved.
Even more fascinating than this quote is the man who issued it. So fascinating, in fact, that I was inspired to pick up a few books about his life and legacy. Maximilian Kolbe was not your average Catholic priest. He was a true champion of service who volunteered his time and talents up to the moment of his death in the infamous Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.
Life began for young Kolbe in a fiercely Catholic and patriotic Polish family. By all accounts, Kolbe was a bright child. He joined the priesthood and went on to achieve two doctorates, his first (in Philosophy) at age 21! He was a priest ahead of his time in many ways, as he obtained a printing press and started a local newspaper with his religious community he founded called “Niepokalanow” (which translates, “the city of Mary,” as in the mother of Jesus Christ, to whom the saint was greatly devoted). Maximilian Kolbe even spent time on a mission in Japan serving, teaching, and founding a religious community of Franciscans there.
Incredibly, Kolbe accomplished these feats while battling severe tuberculosis throughout his life. His work was often thwarted by his illness. Despite this, St. Maximilian was known for these key traits: loving without limits of race, religion, gender, etc., always smiling, being obedient, and above all possessing great humility. He “exerted himself enormously for human souls,” according to colleague Janina Kowalska. (A Man for Others, p. 39).
Unfortunately, World War II brought the Nazis to Niepokalanow, and Father Kolbe was picked up as a “dangerous person.” The Nazis persecuted the religious with intense brutality. Kolbe was eventually destined to don the striped outfit and bear the impossible conditions of Auschwitz.
In Auschwitz, survivors report that Kolbe calmed and comforted them, and frequently gave his portion of meager rations to others. A doctor in the camp, Rudolph Diem, recalled, “In view of the general animal instinct of self-preservation so evident in everyone else, his desire to sacrifice himself for others surprised and intrigued me” (p. 151). “He dispensed love and nothing but love” remarked one Jewish boy, revealing Kolbe’s ability to create fellowship with people from any background (p. 153). He brought rays of hope, but bore much affliction from age and his continuous lung disease.
Auschwitz had a rule: if one prisoner escaped, 10 of the 600 from the escapee’s block would be forced to endure a slow, painful death in the starvation bunker.
On July 31, 1941 a prisoner from Block 14, Kolbe’s Block, escaped.
The Nazi Kommandant chose 10 poor souls, and one, Francis Gajowniczek, cried aloud for his wife and children. Suddenly and unexpectedly, prisoner 16670 pushed through the lines of men and respectfully requested to take the man’s place. In perfect German, he addressed the cruel commander, who unbelievably consented.
Maximilian Kolbe’s good deed shone in the dark moment; he took the worst torture imaginable for a fellow prisoner he hardly even knew.
Interpreter Bruno Borgowiec, who was assigned to the starvation bunker, reported details from Kolbe’s brief experience. Singing and prayer could be heard from the underground bunker; even the SS admired his courage and strength.
Maximilian Kolbe was one of the last to die; in fact, he had to be injected with carbolic acid because he lasted so long. He died August 14, 1941.
Francis Gajowniczek survived and lived 54 more years. He told Maximilian Kolbe’s story all his life.
As the Catholic church made him a saint, Polish Cardinal Wyszynski stated, “Whereas people trust in material resources like tanks, planes, and armies, Kolbe shows that only one thing is necessary to gain peace and unity for the world, the practice of love” (182).
As one of the millions of victims of the holocaust, pervasive “indifference” proved fatal to Maximilian Kolbe. The apathy can be seen in our society today as well. Bottom line is, there’s so much more to life than school, work, social media. Aimless, mundane life is awful. Be the next Maximilian Kolbe; live with purpose and turn to service! Do something. Kolbe gave his life to the service of others, and in the end with compassion for a stranger. For what would you give your life?
What are you being indifferent to right now that you could change for good? Why do we honor suffering and sacrifice? What champion of service inspires you and why?
Royal, Robert. The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History. New York: Crossroad, 2000. Print.
Treece, Patricia. A Man for Others: Maximilian Kolbe, Saint of Auschwitz, in the Words of Those Who Knew Him. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.
On Friday November 13, 2015 Richter Center Ambassadors tabled for World Kindness Day at Fresno State. The goal was to inform students about World Kindness Day and to encourage them to do an act of kindness for someone— someone they love or even a stranger. Suggestions ranged from feeding a vending machine, thanking someone, or volunteering time at an organization. These acts of kindness can certainly make someone’s day as well as be rewarding to the person who does them. There are endless possibilities on what you can do for others, and a plus is that most do not involve spending money.
Although there are certain days in the year in which kind acts are done on a large scale, I encourage you to do a random act of kindness whenever there is an opportunity to do so.
Will you act on Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17, 2016?
I cherish these words from the students at Ericson Elementary School during a recent Saturday Sports activity. Saturday Sports is a program organized by Every Neighborhood Partnership (ENP), with a mission “to connect churches and community partners to elementary schools and to equip them to serve through their active presence in every neighborhood.”
What it boils down to is being a better neighbor.
Last year, I heard about Saturday Sports through the Richter Center Student Leadership grapevine. Although I was not an Ambassador at the time, I was very much interested in completing personal service hours with kids. I was already a tutor for Wise Old Owl, the after school program for kids in the Lowell Neighborhood, organized by the Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership (FIFUL). However, as I started a new job this year, I was no longer able to commit the time for after school tutoring.
I sure miss the kids from Wise Old Owl, but sometimes life forces you to pick up your things and move on. This can be especially difficult for the kids because some are familiar with inconsistency and people entering and exiting their lives.
On a Thursday night at my church’s college community, there were sign-ups going around for Saturday Sports at two nearby elementary schools. Ericson Elementary, was going to be led by my former internship staff member, Daniel, and his wife Brenda. I was excited about the opportunity, but also worried that I would be inconsistent in my attendance and use being a busy college student as an excuse. However, I wanted to try because even if I connected with one student, and could be a consistent presence in his or her life, that would be enough.
The first Saturday in September was a hot one; typical Fresno weather. I showed up before our site leaders and any other volunteers, and I was hopeful that it was going to be a good day. I met Chris, Josh and Jonah among the adult volunteers from the Valley Dream Center, for a total of ten volunteers. We did not expect the overflow of children at 9 a.m., but that is what we got. Nearly 30 children showed up for a first Saturday Sports. We played soccer, flag football, colored, sculpted with Playdough, and more. Kids were elated and never short of energy. Parents even joined in on the games. They just wanted more time to spend with us.
I even received a colored picture of a turtle from one of the young girls in attendance. I pinned it to a wall in my room, next to a mish-mash of other special handwritten notes and photos.
After the conclusion of a recent Saturday morning, volunteers were invited to an ENP training. We met the staff of ENP, heard their history, and their vision for the city of Fresno. At the training, we discussed engaging parents in our program as part of their Five Step Process. This was of particular interest for me because I want to build a relationship with the families attending our program.
One takeaway from that discussion was it’s not about us (the volunteers) imposing our ways and our thoughts of what makes a “good neighborhood.” It’s about our neighbors (both parents and kids). Parents especially have many valuable assets because they know more about the neighborhood than we do. It’s encouraged to let parents lead activities and share their skills with us and the students, even if that is simply teaching a student how to play checkers.
It has been seven weeks since the first Saturday Sports. I recognize faces and remember names. They are no longer just the boys from Daniel and Brenda’s apartments, the artistic girl in middle school, or the twins who like to play badminton. They are Kevin, Jesus, Jorgie, Skye, Jay’den, and Dav’ion. I know their teachers’ names, what type of music they like, how many siblings they have, and the like. No Saturday has been the same, but each Saturday has taught me something new about service.
What are you doing to serve your neighborhood? What volunteer experiences have made an impact on your life?
~Ambassador/Reflection Facilitator Erika D. Castanon
On Saturday, October 24th, I volunteered at Make a Difference Day, which was planned and hosted by the SERVE committee, another Richter’s Center Student Leader group in charge of organizing the many different one-day service events through Fresno State. I woke up early, walked down to the school, and checked-in to the location with all the other volunteers that were set to serve that day – all before 8AM. The task of the day was planting trees around various locations on campus. We got an extremely thorough introduction to how to plant a tree from the grounds maintenance team of Fresno State, who demonstrated step-by-step the process needed to bring a tree to life.
First, the hole must be dug using shovels. It must be wide enough for the base of the tree to expand and deep enough to cover the soil base of the tree. The base must be broken up prior to insertion in order for the roots to spread. Once the hole had been dug, the tree could be set inside the dug-up hole. The soil was then able to be returned to the area which covered the base of the tree. At the halfway mark, the volunteers were instructed to place a few fertilizer tabs around the soil to assist in the growing process. Once the hole was filled, a soil barrier was placed along the outside edge of the circle to protect and house the water as it is initially watered. Finally, stakes were hammered into the soil using a stake hammer, and were tied to the tree using fasteners to hold the tree together and prevent the tree from unnecessary movements.
After some reflection on this service experience, I thought of the different ways this project had affected me and had helped me grow as an individual. It was fortunate for our volunteer group to have the opportunity to have a specialized team of landscape specialists guide our service group step-by-step and show the process of planting a tree; they were available to answer any questions and were helpful throughout the day. At the end of the service event, I was excited that I learned a new skill. I am confident that if I am ever thrust into a situation where I am required to plant a tree, I can go through the steps taught to me during Make a Difference Day to successfully complete the task.
Service was able to teach me how to complete a task I never thought I would have to do. Community service is powerful in many different ways to not only the community but to the volunteers themselves, and it has the potential to be a powerful instructor as well. Life is all about trying new things and learning as many different things as possible, and community service serves as a viable avenue for acquiring new assets. If you have not served before, service can be an enriching experience for not only personal growth and development, but for enhancing your skill sets too.
If you have served, what new skills have you learned while volunteering?
Psst…Serving Fresno Day, which is similar to Make a Difference Day, is right around the corner on November 21st. Consider registering to volunteer and learn some skills just like Jove did.
Last Veteran’s Day I got the chance to attend the Fresno Veteran’s Day Parade with my fellow Ambassadors. The day before we had spent time at Fresno State having Fresno State students, faculty, staff, and visitors sign a We❤ Our Veterans poster. Most of us had never been to the parade, but we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to show our support to veterans. We all met up at Fresno State with our sign and drove downtown, setting up shop right on a corner where veterans in the parade would most easily see us. We had many heartfelt thank yous said to us as veterans walked by our sign, some family members of the veterans would even point out the sign making sure that their veteran saw it. After the parade we didn’t want to just crumble up the sign and throw it away – we wanted to give it to someone and I knew just the person to give it to, Rudolph Giannoni.
When I think about what lifelong service looks like, my first thought is always my friend, Rudy.
Rudy was born on April 18th, 1923 and twenty years later in 1943, though he was not eligible for the draft, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force. Rudy was a Staff Sergeant left waist gunner on a B-17 Bomber. On June 17th, 1944 on his seventh mission over Misburg, Germany, his plane was shot down.
Rudy spent the rest of the war as a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft IV in Poland. During the coldest winter on record at the time Rudy was sent on the “Black Death March” walking from Poland to his Liberation in May of 1945. Upon coming home Rudy got married and he also began working for Kraft Foods, retiring after 37 years of service to the company.
Rudy didn’t begin talking about his life as a POW until one of his granddaughters asked him questions about World War II for a school assignment. Once he began talking and educating others, he couldn’t be stopped. Rudy has made over 70 visits across the Central Valley to many elementary schools, high schools, clubs, and various organizations – the theme of his visits was always, “Experiences as a POW in World War II”.
Rudy spent a lot of his time serving at the Central Valley VA Hospital. Rudy was a member of the Fresno Chapter #1 of Ex-POWs, Purple Heart Chapter, American Legion Post 509 and 4, and was also on the Fresno Veteran’s Day Parade Organizing Committee. Rudy has also played an instrumental part in organizing the fundraising efforts to erect an Ex-Pow Monument at the VA Hospital in 2009.
In 2013, he was part of the first Valley Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and the World War II Memorial. On Rudy’s 90th Birthday he took a flight in a B-17 over Fresno, was recognized with the “Key to the City of Fresno,” and all of this was televised on NBC Nightly News. Rudy was given the French Legion of Honor Medal. In June of 2015 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from VA Central California Health Care System.
Rudy has been a part of my life since before I was even thought of. When my mom was fresh out of college she took a job at Kraft Foods, her position was the one that Rudy was retiring from. My mom spent a couple of weeks learning the ways of Rudy. Rudy was a lovely Italian man that always stood up straight and always greeted you with a hug and a kiss. Rudy and I were pen pals from the end of my 8th grade year to the end of high school. Rudy was one of the few people who looks into a person’s eyes and sincerely listens. This man had a brain filled with knowledge and a heart full of love. And he was always willing to share. I could never be sad around Rudy because he had this incredible personality that was so contagious.
Rudy helped show me the importance of love of Country and of Veteran’s Day. On this day, not only do I think of Rudy, but also the past, present, and future men and women who sacrifice their lives for the protection of others. Although Rudy is no longer with us and I can’t visit him on Veteran’s Day, his spirit has left an incredible impact not only on my life, but on all the lives of those who ever had the pleasure of meeting such an outstanding person. I will never forget my Rudy and I will always remember to thank my Veterans. I hope each one of us can take the time, today and everyday, to thank the ones that protect us.
How are you going to thank a Veteran? Do you have a Rudy in your life?
Are you looking for a way to serve in the Fresno community? Lucky for you, Serving Fresno Day is November 21, 2015 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 pm. Serving Fresno Day is a local day of service encouraging people in the community to serve. Fresno State students, faculty, staff, and alumni have the opportunity to serve their community with one of three community benefit organizations. This year, Fresno State is partnering with Sierra Foothill Conservancy, Fresno State Plant Operations, and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Central Valley.
To refurbish the Fresno State campus.
To help build hiking trails with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy.
To paint and work on beautification projects at the Ronald McDonald House.
Volunteers are able to participate individually or as a group, they just need to fill out the Serving Fresno Day registration form. After you have registered, you will receive additional information about the event via email.
Last year, I had a wonderful time volunteering at a similar event called Make a Difference Day where I planted trees at Woodward Park. I still remember this experience because when I go to the park I am able to appreciate the nature around me. It is interesting because most of the time people want to help others and do not think about volunteering to improve the community through nature beautification. However, this event made me realize that no matter what the service is, you can make a difference. There are hundreds of people that walk through the park every week and they are able to appreciate nature because of the help of volunteers.
Community service and charity has the opportunity to create a positive, altruistic image for an individual or a business. Donating your own time to help others in need shows public-spirited character, demonstrates a willingness to change the community for the better, and allows an individual or business to give back to benefit the community. Sports organizations, in particular, strive to create this reputation and offer many different programs and groups catered to service. The NFL and NBA, two of the most popular sports in the United States, offer crowds of service opportunities and have numerous athletes who take the time to make the community a better place.
The NFL understands that contact football can be a dangerous sport and have been working with many different organizations to help raise awareness for player safety. One such organization is the NFL Player Care Foundation (PCF), an independent organization dedicated to helping retired players improve their quality of life. PCF addresses all aspects of life by providing programs and assistance with medical, emotional, financial, and social and community issues. Along with safety, the NFL also works with youth NFL groups including Pass, Punt, and Kick, NFL Flag Leagues, and USA Youth Football to teach the proper fundamentals of the game and encourages all young players to have fun playing in a competitive sports setting. The NFL has also set up NFL Play 60, which motivates children and teens to be active and play outside for at least 60 minutes per day. The NFL holds themselves to a high social responsibility for many issues as well: the NFL has teamed up to promote breast cancer awareness, dangers of driving under the influence, salute to service, and eco-friendly environmental acknowledgement.
One such player that embodies the service image of the NFL is Dallas Cowboy’s Tight End Jason Witten. Witten was the recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2012, which awards an NFL player for their outstanding levels of involvement with the community. Not only has he stayed true to the Cowboys as a premier tight end for more than a decade, attended more than seven Pro Bowls, and has held the team record for most receptions, but he has launched a charity foundation, battles domestic violence through funded programs, has created a learning center program for struggling youth, has been a spokesperson for youth fitness, and has also hosted football camps for the past decade for young athletes. Among all these community honors and awards, the man stays humble, doesn’t complain, is respectful in all interviews, and is all around a genuine and selfless individual. He puts others before himself; he plays the game of football with lots of heart, and is a respectful and likeable person.
In the NBA, the league has set up global outreach initiative that aims to address social issues. This season, in fact, as part of the 10th anniversary of its creation, NBA Cares is renewing its commitment to communities around the world by inspiring play and teaching basketball’s values to more than 15 million youth, providing an additional 3 million hours of service to others, and leaving a lasting legacy in communities by building 1,000 more safe places to live, learn or play by 2025. NBA Cares works with youth-serving programs that support education, family development, and health, including: Special Olympics, YMCA of the USA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Share Our Strength and GLSEN. Since 2005 when NBA Cares was launched, the league and teams have raised more than $260 million for charity, provided more than 3.3 million hours of hands-on service, and built more than 970 places where kids and families can live, learn or play in communities around the world.
Russell Westbrook, point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is one such service role model in the NBA who has set up the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundationto inspire kids around the world and help teach them to never give up. This organization is dedicated to supporting community based education and family service programs while encouraging youth to believe in themselves. During the 2014-15 season, Westbrook along with his organization opened new reading centers called “Russell’s Reading Room” in three Oklahoma City public schools, providing 1,200 new books. Westbrook also presented a local Oklahoma City single mother of two children with the new Kia car he won as the 2015 All-Star Game MVP.
These organizations are set up to inspire individuals to create new experiences and develop new skills through volunteerism. Community service and charity has the power to give life satisfaction, create special relationships with the individuals within the community, and allows an individual to directly impact the status of a community. The NFL and NBA strive to create this noble and generous environment through the many community partners they sponsor. These sports organizations use the media attention to try and make the world a better place by inspiring viewers to get involved and to do their part in helping their local communities.
I encourage all who serve to reflect on why service is important to strengthening an individual’s foundation, but also to see how it can help shape a positive image for an individual or an organization. The Richter’s Center Ambassador’s mission is to create a positive perception of community service to encourage others to serve and to highlight the goodness that students and organizations achieve through helping others around the community.