Community service offers opportunity to give back

By Justin M. Rodriguez
Pulse Staff Reporter

Photo illustration of male volunteer holding bag of donations and girl volunteer holding blankets
Volunteers ready with donations. Photo courtesy the Salvation Army.

Non-profit organizations provide students with vast volunteer opportunities outside of the classroom in San Antonio and around the world.

The purpose of such service primarily focuses on learning skills and networking with people not normally encountered on a daily basis. Volunteers can earn valuable experience to put on a resume or future job applications.

“Colleges and universities like to see that,” said Josh Ramirez, an Engineering freshman at Palo Alto College.

Ramirez volunteered at the San Antonio Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity as a part of his community service requirement in high school. Ramirez also volunteered to clean up highways and paint over graffiti in the San Antonio area. He learned community involvement and volunteering are things higher education institutions look for when reviewing applications.

As of October 2014, the San Antonio Food Bank collaborates with over 500 agencies in 16 counties, like Atascosa, Bexar and Comal. Many, though, are based in San Antonio.

According to the SAFB, 36 percent of their clients are children under the age of 18 years old, and 46 percent of households include at least one employed adult. SAFB’s mission revolves around fighting hunger in Southwest Texas via food distribution, programs, education and advocacy. To learn more about how to get involved, visit their website.

Proceeds from Soccer for a Cause, a local non-profit initiative founded by Gordon Hartman, benefit Morgan’s Wonderland, a theme park for children with special needs. Toyota Field, home to the San Antonio Scorpions semi-pro soccer team, also forwards ticket and merchandise sales to Soccer for a Cause.

The Society of St. Vincent DePaul focuses on embracing “all works of charity and justice,” educates communities in terms of awareness, diversity and global concerns.

Leslie Reyna, an Elementary Education sophomore at Palo Alto, emphasized the importance of helping people, no matter how big or small, and making a difference.

Service organizations use volunteers largely to stretch their budget so that their funding goes directly to those in need. Those organizations, like SVDP, rely entirely on “person-to-person service” to support their mission.

“…it’s worth it,” said Reyna, who was first introduced to community service organizations through Elf Louise, a holiday gift-wrapping project designed to give presents to kids who wouldn’t get a gift otherwise.

Reyna volunteers at Elf Louise with her family members in addition to her job at Valley High Elementary. She believes volunteering is one of the best ways to give back to the community.

The Salvation Army traditionally sponsors the “Red Kettle,” which is a red pot usually located outside of a retail store, such as Walgreens, accompanied by an individual dressed as Santa Claus who rings a bell.

Something new for Salvation Army volunteers is the option to start an online kettle. It’s a way for volunteers to raise funds via email and social networking. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding this new opportunity.

Robert Garcia, director of development for Salvation Army in San Antonio, shared a number of ways for students and individuals to get involved, like disaster services, emergency family shelters and holiday time assistance.

“How much help we need depends on the time of year…about 75 percent of our support comes during this (holiday) time,” said Garcia.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, poor and middle class Americans gave more to charity than those who earned more.

To search for a list of non-profit organizations near you, visit Great Non Profits and type in your zipcode.