Saturday, almost 2,000 volunteers will gather at 8:30 a.m. before setting out to various assigned locations to volunteer until 4 p.m. CSUnity, which has been taking place for almost 10 years now, is designed for students to be able to reach out to the community.
CSU students will be volunteering for a multitude of agencies such as the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center, Fort Collins parks and Sunflower active adult community, along with many private residencies, said SLiCE office program coordinator Lanea Russel. They will also be spring cleaning the garden at Martinez farm for the grow forth project, helping the Northern Colorado intertribal association with their annual pow-wow, and painting big wooden butterflies for the Hearts and Horses Trail of Discovery.
“CSUnity has become a legacy now, so a lot of different people and agencies already know about it. People are actually writing in and asking for volunteers sometimes before I get a chance to contact them,” Russel said.
Along the way, a lot of students end up forming relationships with the people or organizations they are helping out. Sophomore health and exercise science major Mando Apio spent four hours last year painting a house for an elderly woman with his group from the CSU Key communities.
“When she came out she was ecstatic to see a couple guys and girls ready to help her out. She was a little awkward at first, but she got used to us pretty fast. She kept trying to give us this old wooden ladder that we couldn’t say no to,” Apio said. “We tried climbing on it but it was way too flimsy.”
The woman they were helping was a music teacher and she offered the students music lessons. Apio said they later received feedback from her and kept in touch for a bit afterward.
This year, he will be leading a group from Key Plus Community to CSUnity to clean an old man’s gutters and helping him clean his lawn.
“It’s not really a mandatory thing for us. We’re just a group of kids that are getting together to enjoy volunteering,” Apio said.
Pre-vet major Ellen Holbrook, president of CSU Best Buddies, which partners students with individuals with disabilities, participated in CSUnity last year with her leadership floor from Durward Hall. They helped an elderly woman pull dandelions out of her lawn. They ended up just talking and sharing stories with the woman for hours, Holbrook said.
“There are a lot of elderly people that are even alumni of CSU that seem to be disconnected from the student population, so it’s definitely a link with them. It’s really cool because they have all of these interesting stories about what CSU was like 50 years ago,” Holbrook said.
This year, Best Buddies will be working with an elderly couple with conditions that do not allow for extensive outdoor work. The CSU students as well as the buddies will be painting a shed in the yard, as well as raking leaves and other yard work. Ellen is excited about the bonding experience that will be induced from the “buddies” all working together toward a common goal.
“We wouldn’t have our group if it weren’t for our ‘buddy’ community members. It’s nice to be able to give back like that,” Holbrook said.
For the past three years, senior international studies and tourism major Audrey Moreno, assistant coordinator of special events in the SLiCE office has been participating in CSUnity either as a volunteer or through her work in the office. This year, she will be participating with her sorority, but mainly helping with the organization of check-in in the morning.
“It’s really amazing to see how much of an impact we can have in a single day. CSU is really dependent on the community and I don’t think we realize it at times but there is so much we can do to help out,” Moreno said.
With so many students and groups, Moreno said that planning has been going on all semester, along with a little bit in the fall semester. Moreno said they want to make sure the volunteers are well suited for the groups, which can be difficult with such large numbers.
Collegian Writer Cailley Biagini can be reached at email@example.com