Education · Fresno

Fresno State marks ten years with more than 1 million hours of volunteerism

For the tenth year in a row, Fresno State has provided more than 1 million hours of volunteer service to the local community. Students, faculty and staff in the 2018-19 academic year delivered more than 1.4 million hours of volunteer service.

This is according to the Service Impact on the Community Report by the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Fresno State.

The estimated economic impact of these hours, provided by more than 40 Fresno State programs and initiatives, is more than $42 million. This figure is based on calculations from the Independent Sector, a national nonpartisan network of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations and professionals. The 2018 value of an hour of volunteer time in California was $29.95, says the network.

Said Chris Fiorentino, director of the Richter Center, in a University news release: “As amazing as these statistics are, they mask the true value of the University’s service programs – providing meaningful learning and development opportunities for our students and providing impactful service to our community.”

Added Bud Richter: “Jan and I are grateful for the Fresno State leadership who enable students, staff, faculty and administration to join forces in helping our community have a better quality of life. The life lessons learned in service to others benefits our students and our region. Service has become an integral part of the Fresno State culture and we are thrilled to be a part of that effort.”

The Richter Center coordinates Fresno State’s community engagement and service-learning efforts. The Center works with other Fresno State programs/departments involved in community engagement. These allies include the Humanics Program, the Community Service Scholarship Program and the Scholars in Service Program. The Richter Center also teams with some 200 community benefit organizations across the Central Valley.

The Richter Center was started in 2007 when Jan and Bud Richter pledged to provide $3.5 million to get the ball rolling. The Richters, according the news release, believed the Center would “instill in students a lifelong character trait of giving to the community.”

The news release comes from Fresno State spokeswoman BoNhia Lee. I worked with BoNhia for many years at The Bee. In her newspaper days, she was the best real estate reporter in the Valley.

One highlight of the program revolves around the dedication of Ahson Haider, who began volunteering for Camp Kesem Fresno State in 2016, not long after his mother died from brain cancer.

The club, led by University student volunteers, helps support children ages 5 to 18 through and beyond a parent’s cancer diagnosis.

“It resonated with me, and I felt it was a perfect match,” said Haider, who transferred to Fresno State after attending Clovis Community College and Fresno City College. “I became a counselor and these kids, they blow your mind away – how inspiring they are. It was a life-changing moment for me. It helped inspire me, and what I wanted to do with my career.”

Haider graduated in May with a degree in sociology and plans to go to medical school. He is wrapping up his last summer as a Camp Kesem volunteer, Lee writes. This year, he served as volunteer coordinator recruiting and training 40 new volunteers.

On a personal note, Richter Center volunteerism stories in general and Camp Kesem Fresno State stories in particular were among my favorites when I was an advisor for The Collegian, the University’s full service news platform.

My mother died of cancer 63 years ago, when I was 6. I now have Stage 4 cancer. To paraphrase a Joni Mitchell song, I’ve looked at cancer from both sides now. The work that Haider and his Fresno State colleagues do makes our society stronger. The same is true for volunteers wherever they call home. They are honorable men and women.

Lee quotes Haider as encouraging everyone to get involved in this way.

“It’s an absolute must to volunteer because that’s where you get to meet people and find yourself,” he said.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.