Community service is low, but morale is high

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More than 100 UNLV students, staff, and faculty arrived at the Student Union Ballroom on the second floor in preparation to participate in Service Day.  

UNLVolunteers, a student-led organization with a mission to encourage civic engagement and positive social change by providing and promoting meaningful service opportunities to UNLV students, faculty, and staff. In addition to Service Day, UNLVolunteers programs focus on five impact areas: Advocacy, environment, health and wellness, housing and food insecurity, and youth. Entirely done through volunteer events and education.

“Service Day happens once a semester. It’s our biggest event of the semester, where we plan with community partners and try to gather students to come volunteer,” said Rachel Kim, UNLV Service Day site leader. “It’s a great way for students, staff, and faculty to come together for one day and go out and volunteer.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the turnout for volunteers was higher, now that the pandemic begins to ease, UNLVolunteers still expect a lower turnout. 

“With the pandemic, it has been a bit harder trying to get volunteers to come back in person,” Kim said. “We know that people are still hesitant to be back in person.” 

Non-profit organizations also proved to be difficult to come by.  

“This semester we had fewer non-profits involved because it was hard to coordinate what kind of services they wanted,” Kim said. “We start planning around December, and January, that’s around the holidays when people are off, so it was pretty difficult to try and land more organizations.” 

Upon arrival, volunteers check in and split up into groups based on non-profit  organizations. During orientation members receive a T-shirt and education. During education volunteers are given the definition of service and social justice. 

“We ask our volunteers to think about those definitions while volunteering and doing their work,” Kim said. “And see how those definitions relate to the service they are doing.” 

UNLV athletics’ Director of Executive Administrations Jacqueline Perez and Student-Athlete Vuk Celic visited the Student Union Starbucks to grab drinks before heading to the nonprofit site. Perez hoped to gain new information from a different non-profit.

“This is my second time volunteering with Service Day,” Perez said. “We are always looking for more volunteer opportunities for our 550 students here in the athletic department.” 

Growing up in Las Vegas and coming from a first-generation immigrant family, Perez said she benefited from community nonprofits and looked forward to giving back. 

“My parents moved here and had me very young. I know we relied on help from other people,” Perez said. “Now it’s my turn to give back to those that are also maybe first-generation or are in those situations. So it’s especially dear to me.”

Celic, who moved to Las Vegas two years ago, looked forward to giving back to a community that has been great to him.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to give back to this community that accepted me two years ago,” Celic said. “And that really took me in when I needed it.”

Tiffany Thomas, a UNLV sophomore, chose to volunteer at the UNLV campus garden. Thomas looked forward to receiving community service hours.

“Every campus club requires community service hours, so I was like why not volunteer on service day,” Thomas said. “I’m in ANTS, Alliance of Non-Traditional Students, and the Student Nutrition and Dietetic Association, mostly for the nutrition club, they want volunteer hours. Today I decided to do garden stuff because I’m going to be a part of the nutrition program and I wanted to see how things grow.”

Angelina Gonzales, a strategy and operations specialist at UNLV, also volunteered at the UNLV Community Garden. 

“I’m kind of new to the university and wanted to find something to do on campus. I really enjoy volunteering and I work closely with the Academic Advising Counsel,” Gonzales said.  “They have a plot here at the garden, so I thought it would be a good idea to help with the gardening and just get a feel for it.

Andie Davis, campus coordinator for UNLV Community Garden and President of Rebel Roots UNLV Garden Club, said she looked forward to the help Service Day provides.

During the pandemic, Davis along with many non-profit organizations experienced issues securing help from volunteers due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

“Over lockdown when the garden was closed for almost a year and a half, two years it looked really bad,” Davis said. “And so by having volunteers come out, just within three volunteer days the garden looked miraculously better.”

The garden reopened during the fall semester of last year and is still in recovery. 

“We are still trying to build the garden back up, and get people involved,” Davis said. “We never run out of things to do, there is always weeding to be done. We benefit immensely from volunteers, we couldn’t do it without them.”

Students can get involved with UNLVolunteers by simply coming to our service events, attending our monthly general meetings, or becoming part of the executive board.

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