It was cold and rainy when Alan Montoya arrived in downtown Pomona for the annual Christmas parade — not exactly the kind of weather that attracts volunteers — but the first-year mechanical engineering student would not let a dose of Southern California winter deter him.
“I thought that helping out would be rewarding, and I was not disappointed,” he says. His assignment was to help people along the parade route who had questions or concerns. One woman approached and said her daughter was in the parade, but the rest of the family was lost and didn’t know how to make it there on time to see her. Montoya got on the phone and provided directions.
“I thought it was great to help a family come together,” says Montoya, who was there as part of a volunteer project sponsored by a residence hall honors group.
It was a simple act, and it fits in precisely with what the university’s Center for Community Engagement is trying to accomplish with it 75 Acts of Kindness outreach.
“It seemed a great way to accomplish our goals this year as well as highlight the 75th anniversary,” says Michael Millar, the center’s director. “We want to build partnerships across campus as well as in the community. We want to make it known that we’re good citizens. This is who we are.”
The 75 Acts of Kindness initiative, which began in the middle of the fall quarter, is going to ramp up in the winter and spring, Millar says, with volunteer opportunities for the entire campus community. The 75 Acts will also include activities that take place through service-learning coursework.
Megan McDanel, the center’s coordinator of volunteer projects, says individuals or groups are welcome to come with an idea, or they can check out the opportunities that are already available. A major advantage of going through the center is the expert advice and the help with logistics — the kinds of things that might seem like minutiae but can make the difference between a good and bad experience.
“We already have 75 to 80 established community partners who have been scouted out and approved,” McDanel says. “We’re doing more than just showing up for two hours and leaving. Cal Poly Pomona is invested in these places. We are working hard to be the clearinghouse for all service projects because we take care of the paperwork, logistics and risk management, which frees the volunteers to focus on their project.”
Besides lending a hand at the Christmas parade, the center has helped organize a fraternity’s Thanksgiving food project, a cleanup day at the Boys and Girls Club of Pomona Valley, and homeless outreach, just a few of the 75 Acts of Kindness.
“We’re looking to do something that people remember, something that is not just a one-year activity,” Millar says. “For us, the most meaningful thing that could happen is that the 75 Acts of Kindness becomes a springboard for continued projects. This is a great idea for this year, but we want the whole campus and community to be better off next year and the year after that.”
Jimena Jaramillo, a second-year psychology student who has volunteered for two projects, seconds Millar’s sentiments.
“It feels really good to know I’ve made a positive impact on people’s lives.”
If you are interested in volunteering, you can reach the Center for Community Engagement at (909) 869-4269 or http://www.cpp.edu/~cce/contact_us.shtml.
(Photo: Student volunteers at a Boys & Girls Club cleanup day.)