Willamette’s Community Service Learning (CSL) program facilitates weekly volunteer opportunities known as Service Saturdays. Service Saturdays take place at organizations like food share centers, retirement homes and community gardens. Next week’s Service Saturday will be held at the Marion Polk Foodshare Youth Garden. Volunteers will harvest produce that may be kept or donated to the Bearcat Pantry. Bearcat Pantry is a resource for “students who may identify as food insecure or who may face uncertainty about where their next meal is coming from,” as stated on the Willamette website. Volunteers will also learn about sustainable farming practices and cooking with fresh produce.
Service Saturdays are an “opportunity to try out a diverse range of cool and low-commitment volunteer options,” said Lead CSL Coordinator Sophie Bunch (‘21).
The program always provides transportation, so that is not an inhibiting factor for aspiring volunteers. “This is a chance to break out of the Willamette bubble and give back to the Salem community,” said Sarah Connor (‘21), Junior CSL Coordinator. Connor encourages students to try as many different service opportunities as they can.
After low turnout rates, “We asked ourselves, ‘Do students not want to volunteer?’ Willamette is sold on service, it’s in our motto. Why aren’t more students turning out?” said Connor. “This is an excellent resource being overlooked.”
Both Connor and Bunch relayed gratitude for the work that community partners put into maintaining relationships with Willamette’s CSL office and Service Saturdays. “I have learned a lot about how the impact of volunteers can be not so great for community partners. We are not necessarily from Oregon or Salem, are working within existing structures and taking up space. I am thankful for how kind our community partners are. They put in so much effort to help us maintain these programs,” said Bunch.
HOME, a youth resource center that serves kids aged 12-17, is one of Bunch’s favorite places to volunteer. “I am in awe of the work HOME puts in keeping these services running. They really strive towards a warm, friendly environment. They have beds and gardens and care so much about the kids that come in.”
Bunch encourages students to reach out to any of the seven branches of CSL if the short-term commitment of Service Saturdays is not what they are looking for. The seven branches include Tiger Club, which organizes mentoring and tutoring at nearby Bush Elementary, and Language in Motion, wherein international students and students who have studied abroad can share their experiences with K-12 schools.
Stay up to date with CSL and Service Saturdays by subscribing to their weekly Wednesday emails. Listserv subscriptions may be accessed through the Willamette’s Community Service Learning web page.