Students Share Their Compassion with the Community

Members of the Sociology Club have collected shoeboxes filled with gifts for children for the past seven years.

When CSU Stanislaus senior Stephanie Hopper started her Business Ethics and Social Responsibility class this semester, she didn’t realize that some of the most valuable lessons she’d learn would come from outside of the classroom.

Her professor requires each student to volunteer at least 15 hours during the semester with a local nonprofit organization. So every other week, Hopper and her classmates give their time to the United Samaritans Foundation in downtown Turlock, helping to prepare, sort, box or serve food to homeless and low-income residents or sort donated clothing.

On her first day at the site, Hopper felt compassion for the many people she saw there who depend on the foundation’s services to survive — from picking out clothing from the clothes closet to taking a shower in the public bathroom.

“When you walk in and actually see all the people who need the services, you feel relieved for them that they have a place to go,” Hopper said. “You have to be sympathetic, because that could be any of us, which is why I volunteer.”

She soon decided her work with the organization would continue long past the semester.

“The feeling you get from volunteering is not something that can be bought or given to you,” Hopper said. “It’s an overwhelming feeling of gratification knowing that one person really can make a difference.”

Students from the Hunger Network are also making a difference throughout the community. This student club helps feed the hungry by donating food from their campus garden, collecting canned goods and preparing meals at local shelters. In mid-November, they prepared breakfast and packed sack lunches for the homeless in the We Care Program in downtown Turlock.

“I like to cook, so cooking bacon and eggs that the homeless get to eat is really a great thing,” Hunger Network member Susan Vang said. “I accomplished something that they love and will help nourish them.”

Whether food for the homeless or Christmas gifts for children, CSU Stanislaus students extend their reach to many needy groups throughout Stanislaus County.

For seven straight years, the Sociology Club has organized a Christmas in a Shoebox drive, during which they collect shoeboxes filled with gifts for children, like blankets, clothes and coloring books. This year, the club donated the shoeboxes to hundreds of children supported by the Turlock Family Network, the Children’s Crisis Center of Stanislaus County and the Women’s Haven Center in Modesto.

“It makes a big difference to all these children who wouldn’t have a merry Christmas,” said Ricky Prasad, Sociology Club president. “Thanks to the students who helped us, we’re able to give them a merry Christmas and make them feel like they’re not left out.”

Prasad said the most poignant moments many club members have experienced during their volunteer efforts are when they see the children’s faces as the gifts the club collected are distributed.

“It’s amazing; it’s a really good feeling,” said Tanveer Sandhu, Sociology Club vice president. “Even as college students, we still have the spirit of Christmas to help somebody else. I feel like this gives students an opportunity to volunteer their time to do something positive for someone else.”