CSUSB First-Year Students Make A Difference for Needy Families and Foster Youth

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– First-year students at Cal State San Bernardino continued a tradition of volunteering that will benefit needy families this Thanksgiving in San Bernardino County, as well as foster youth in the Coachella Valley, as part of national Make A Difference Day.

At the university’s Palm Desert Campus on Oct. 27, 60 first-year students on Oct. 27 decorated and filled 60 blue duffel bags each with a blanket, personal hygiene kit, coloring book and crayons, and a stuffed bear for foster children in the Coachella Valley.

The duffel bags will be distributed by the nonprofit, Together We Rise. Often when foster children are moved from home to home, they usually have to carry their belongings in trash bags. Together We Rise wants to replace trash bags with blue duffel bags to make the foster care transitions a little bit easier for children.

At the San Bernardino campus on Oct. 28, more than 140 students working in a non-stop frenetic pace boxed 21,000 pounds of nonperishable food for the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County to help needy families, said Marissa Setyawan, who organized the event in San Bernardino for the university’s Office of Community Engagement.

Diane Podolske, director of OCE, which organized both events, said the first-year students were being introduced to Cal State San Bernardino’s tradition of helping others as part of its DNA of serving the community.

“This part of being a Coyote,” Podolske said. “We want our students to participate in Make A Difference Day because they are making a difference. We want them to know that they count and can continue to serve long after graduation.”

Started in 1992, Make A Difference Day is one of the largest national days of community service in the United States. Celebrated annually on the fourth Saturday in October, thousands of volunteers unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others.

Brandon Romano, manager of the partnership’s food bank program, told the student volunteers, “We are helping people and changing lives. No matter the challenge, all people deserve something nutritious to eat.”

The boxed food will be distributed throughout San Bernardino County by the CAP’s eight partners, Romano said. “The students are packing up food that will be given to needy families for Thanksgiving,” he said.

Working in unison, one group of students assembled the boxes, while another group of students unpacked pallets, each loaded with nonperishable food items, while a third group placed those items into smaller boxes. A fourth group checked to ensure each box had the right contents, followed by another group that taped the boxes shut. Finally, the last group of students carried the sealed boxes outside and stacked them onto pallets.

Maria Cornejo, a human development major, said it was the first time she had ever volunteered.

“It’s fun, but a lot of work,” Cornejo said. “Now that I’ve done it, I want to do it again.”

Ashley Morris, a psychology major, said she would do this again. She said knowing that she was helping people in need was “humbling.”

Marco Antonio Contreras, a cybersecurity major, said while serving in the Marine Corps, he had volunteered at events such as “Toys for Tots.”

“It’s cool how we are coming together to help,” Contreras said.

After about an hour the group was forced to stop when they ran out of food to pack, Setyawan said. In total, the students had packed 1,029 boxes totaling 21,000 pounds, she said. Along with the students, there were four instructors volunteering.

Last year, 100 first-year students had filled more than 650 boxes, packing a total of more than 15,000 pounds of food in about 90 minutes when they ran out of boxes.

In recognition for their volunteer work in packing food, each of the students received a certificate from Assemblymember Marc Steinorth of the 40th State Assembly District, in which the campus is located.

Visit the following websites for more information on each program:

For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.

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