Sacramento State students spent the first day of their Alternative Spring Break helping out at the Meals on Wheels facility in West Sacramento.
Eleven students took part, putting together meals for more than 2,000 senior citizens in the Sacramento area.
Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization with more than 500 volunteers who provide 5,000 hours of work each month, driving both frozen and hot meals to the homes of seniors.
Laura Stainforth, graduate student, enjoyed helping out during alternative break last winter so she wanted to come back this time around.
"I had a blast working at the food bank and wanted to experience Meals on Wheels as well," Stainforth said. "We're making a huge difference today feeding senior citizens who don't have any access to food."
Stainforth said not only is alternative break about helping out the community, but it is also a great opportunity to meet new people and work on a team.
"Once someone volunteers, they're going to realize how rewarding it is and want to come back again and again," she said.
Justin Edwards, junior sociology major, said after being in a car accident three years ago, he returned to school with a new frame of mind and outlook on life.
"Just doing things that benefits yourself is selfish," Edwards said. "Why not do something that will satisfy someone else?"
Sacramento State students dedicated a day of their spring break to assisting needy families in the Oak Park area by handing out nutritional groceries during an outdoor food distribution.
Outside of the Oak Park Community Center, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services held one of its recurring open-air mobile food distribution programs. Alternative Break, which has worked with the food bank previously, arranged for the program to be one of the week's volunteer services.
"It seemed fun to me - getting out and working with food," said T Nguyen, senior kinesiology major. "Knowing that I've done something for the community is a good feeling. When you"re at home being lazy over spring break, time can seem to go by so fast. That's why I decided to come out today."
The 17 volunteers from Sac State started the day off by setting up tables and chairs, along with tents prepared in case of rain. Volunteers then emptied two truckloads of fresh produce, laying it out on the tent-covered tables in a manner reminiscent of a farmers market.
Volunteers stood behind the tables, handing out plastic bags filled with apples, strawberries, cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes and other food. After standing in line, underprivileged individuals selected from the assortment of fruits and vegetables, and came away with nearly one week's worth of provisions.
Approximately 125 bags had been served by the end of the day, which will feed approximately 467 adults, seniors and children. Sacramento Food Bank's Assistance director Marshall Graves was impressed with the Sac State volunteers, and said they, "Did an awesome job."
Wednesday's Alternative Break event with the Sacramento Tree Foundation was cancelled due to rain.
Volunteers for Alternative Break spent another day packing up meals for the elderly with Meals on Wheels, after their planned work with the Sacramento Zoo was cancelled.
"We invited the volunteers back because they were such big help on Monday," Morikawa said. "Meals on Wheels only has a small paid staff, so we sustain through volunteer work. Volunteers, like these students, are essential to our clients not going hungry."
Alternative Break coordinator Misty Garcia, senior public relations major, was a team leader for the 10 students in attendance. Coordinators are not usually positioned in the volunteer leadership role, but Garcia took on the responsibility given the nature of the day.
"The day was very impromptu, so things were different," Garcia said. "We had to do a lot of things last-minute."
Justin Edwards, junior sociology major, said sacrificing another of his relaxing spring break days for the physical labor was difficult, but the satisfaction granted through being involved in selfless volunteer work made it all worthwhile.
"Not too much is different today. The only thing that's different is how I feel," Edwards said. "Monday I was more than willing to participate. Today I had to force myself, but I'm glad I did."
After three hours of work, the Sac State students had already packed up 1,000 meals for shipment. Meals on Wheels delivers somewhere around 2,000 meals every day, and the volunteers' five total hours of work nearly reached the organization's daily quota by their departure at 2 p.m.
Alternative Break finished up with Sacramento State students volunteering with Harvest Sacramento, collecting and donating fruit that had fallen from trees from River Park to East Sacramento.
Harvest Sacramento is a project organized by Soil Born Farms, the organic farmers who assisted the mobile food distribution earlier in the week. Most of the fruit gathered during their harvests go to the Sacramento Food Bank, and the leftover portion is donated to local school programs.
Rain was a constant threat to the team, as working outside made them completely vulnerable to the weather conditions. Originally, Alternative Break's leadership was concerned about another possible cancellation, but the team managed to avoid the rain for the entire day.
The group moved from house to house, stockpiling grapefruits and oranges from yards as they went along.
"The harvest went well," said Randy Stanndard, Harvest Sacramento's project coordinator. "My guesstimate is that we harvested around 800 pounds of fruit during the day."
Gregory Hicks, senior health science major, participated in all but one of the Alternative Break projects. He said the week's community-based services have helped him develop valuable skills, and even doing something as simple as picking up fruit can be a learning experience.
"This week has helped me understand the importance of community service," Hicks said. "Alternative Break's final activity was another opportunity for me to meet new people and grow as a person, which is better than spending spring break sleeping in all day."
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