The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Helping hands

Photo by || Sammie Thach || [email protected]

Fifteen units, weekly quizzes as well as biweekly deadlines—that made up the load of work I carried just for school. Between that, a new job and helping my family, I also had to find time to squeeze in 15 hours of volunteer work for a service-learning project I dreaded.

When I was assigned my service-learning project for a psychology class, I added it to my list of things I did not look forward to doing. However, when I arrived to start in October as a first-time volunteer at Meals on Wheels’ Skyline site and found the coordinator prepping to feed 80 seniors alone, I was more than eager to step in and help.

Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering nutritional meals to seniors across the nation. According to the Meals on Wheels Association of America website, the service provides millions of meals to seniors experiencing hunger and challenged by limited mobility.

Today, many nonprofit organizations are overwhelmed and understaffed. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are over 1 million nonprofit organizations in the United States. That number is drastically disproportionate to the 62,000 active volunteers who were accounted for in the 2010 census, reminding me why there is such a loud cry for volunteers.

As a way to contribute to causes, some Sacramento City College professors assign service-learning projects so students like me can help and create deeper learning, excitement and enthusiasm throughout their courses, according to Pam Flaherty, professor of sociology and Community Service Learning.

All this sounded like a mandated volunteer service to me. But throughout the four days that I completed the 15 hours for my service-learning project, I also helped feed more than 50 seniors every day by serving and preparing their meals which included fruits, milk, bread and their prepackaged lunches. I also helped sanitize and wipe tables before and after the meals were served.

In addition to understanding how hectic the MOW Skyline site can get without any volunteers, I was also touched by the Asian seniors’ life stories and related them to the grandparents I no longer have.

Jessica, the site coordinator, and I spent a majority of our mornings prepping alone. In addition to preparing food, she had to log information from the kitchen, perform daily inventory counts and update registration. I always told her, “I don’t know how you do it.”

On the days that I did meet more volunteers, I was relieved for Jessica. There was one volunteer who always brought her bike upstairs and parked it by the elevator outside the dinning facility. Jessica told me that particular woman really loves helping other people, which came to me as a surprise because she looked as though she could’ve used a little help herself.
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“Once you’ve volunteered, you learn what that feels like. It’ll be very gratifying in giving back,” said Flaherty, which also offered a possible reason why some people put other people ahead of themselves.

However, I would not have felt or understood the rewarding and necessary impact of volunteering if it wasn’t for the assignment of my service-learning project.

I turned in my service-learning project in the form of a journal, one of the many options the service-learning project required. I included detailed accounts of my experience and my thoughts and reflections upon my volunteer service days. By doing this, I was able to sit back and critically understand the contributions my effort provided for.

Flaherty also said that students given the opportunity to do service-learning in any number of their courses, in addition to the civic engagement component, tend to have better retention and become lifelong volunteers. All of this proved true in my case.

Through it, I have found a volunteer site and established a rapport with the site’s coordinator that allows me to volunteer as casually and occasionally as I want to.

Looking back at my service-learning experience, I am happy to say that the gratifying feeling of volunteering definitely trumped the headaches and frustration I initially encountered when I was trying to fit it into my schedule. I now urge fellow students, full and part-time, to get involved in their community and give back in whichever way they can.

Flaherty is a good resource to start with in finding sites. She has a plethora of service-learning options that vary from the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services to the online option for busier students who can write action letters for Amnesty International.

Today, I am proud to say that even after I finished my project, I returned to help Meals on Wheels Skyline and served their Thanksgiving meal to seniors. I will be back Dec. 19 to serve their Christmas meal thanks to the service-learning project.

Visit the Meals on Wheels Association of America website at

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