This weekend, the WebGreek team participated in not one, but two “good causes.” I’m not telling the world about this because we’re super-mega-awesome and you should love us (although we are and you should). I’m telling the world because I was impressed by how much can get done by a few dedicated volunteers, and how enjoyable it can be.
As Greeks and as college students, we learned that service is a necessary part of belonging to a community. Everyone belongs to a number of different communities, from family to social group to school to geographic region and even up to the global community. No matter which communities one identifies with, it is important that they serve those communities. At some point, everyone has benefited from the actions of others, be it Mom, or the study group, or the fraternity. It is only fair that we help when we can.
On Saturday, we volunteered at the Greater Bay Area Make-a-Wish Foundation’s largest annual fundraising event, Wine and Wishes on Treasure Island. The food and wine tastings were provided by the top restaurants and wineries in the Bay region, showcasing some of the highlights of our amazing local culinary culture. The evening took place in what used to be a Pan Am hangar on what used to be a naval base, and the whole room was transformed into a beautiful hall full of food, wine, and people 18 years old to 80 years old in their celebratory finery.
The amount of work it takes to convert a hangar into a venue to put on this event is staggering, but a handful of industrious helpers were able to clean up the entire place in under an hour. I was particularly impressed by how well-organized the event was, but even more by the sincere desire of every volunteer to make a difference. People assigned to parking helped to empty trashcans; auction helpers cleaned the volunteer area; and everyone helped haul trash and leftover ice out the back door. All the while we had fun doing it, shooting the breeze with other volunteers and playing the “who can throw the trash bag into the dumpster from the farthest away” game.
The lesson here is that fun and service are not mutually exclusive. This was proven again on Sunday, when we helped set up the 1st Annual Jog for Jill to benefit the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. It was a beautiful day, and the turnout was fantastic! Over 900 Greeks, parents, friends and children ran, jogged, or walked the course as it wound around UC Berkeley’s campus. The number of people who came out and supported on the weekend was fantastic, and the event has helped raise over $37,000 so far, with many more events scheduled for this year.
We had a great day. We met many of the ladies from KKG, and had a blast schmoozing with our fellow joggers during the leisurely run through campus. The race finished at the Bear’s Lair campus brew pub, where 10% of the proceeds from the after party also benefited the Foundation. Needless to say, it was also fun to help the cause by watching the Super Bowl and eating hot dogs!
There is much that needs to be done, and all it takes is to look around and decide to make a difference. Every little bit helps. For every Martin Luther King Jr., there are thousands of people marching, going door to door, or advocating behind the scenes. Even if you’re not an organizer-type, you still have something to offer: you can paint signs, you can print flyers, you can march and speak and tell your friends. You don’t have to be famous to make a difference.
In many ways, community service is like being an entrepreneur: you must first find a problem to solve, and then you must go about solving it. Kingsley found a way to address the problem of awareness of sexual assault in the Greek system, and GASA now has chapters on several campuses. She’ll tell you it was hard work, but she’ll also tell you that it was more rewarding than it was difficult.
If sexual assault is an issue that speaks to you, then there are plenty of opportunities for yourself or your circle to get involved. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so take a look here to see what opportunities are available for you to volunteer for. This year the theme is preventing sexual assault on higher education campuses…does that sound relevant? One of my close friends became a crisis counselor and has learned valuable skills, as well as having gotten a very poignant look at the human side of this issue.
Fundraisers and office volunteering are also great ways to help. Since the recession, state budgets have been drastically cut (don’t even get me started on California), and as a result, many shelters and counseling centers have had their funding reduced. They need help to be able to keep providing help, and if you can’t contribute money, most organizations can always use a little help around the office.
One thing college students have more than most people is free time. Finding a way to use that free time is easy. All you have to do is ask.