Bay Area clubs hold Community Day projects Nearly 150 members from the regional clubs helped with such projects as bagging meals for needy families abroad, planting gardens and renovating facilities at homeless shelters.

Volunteers An Le and George Luna pack meals at the Rotary club's Community Day event in a Marriott Hotel convention room in San Jose, California. Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group
Volunteers An Le and George Luna pack meals at the Rotary club’s Community Day event in a Marriott Hotel convention room in San Jose, California. Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

Volunteers of all ages got up early Sunday to participate in the Rotary clubs of the Bay Area’s (San Jose, California – D 5170) first ever Community Day, helping out on projects with local and international impacts by taking on deeds of service.

Roughly 150 people, many from regional Rotary clubs or the Rotary-sponsored Interact clubs at local high schools, helped with such projects as bagging meals for needy families abroad and planting gardens and renovating facilities at South Bay homeless shelters.

Dozens of people worked to pack more than 11,000 meals in conjunction with Rise Against Hunger Silicon Valley in a small conference room of the San Jose Marriott Hotel.

The meals — a mixture of rice, soy protein powder and dehydrated vegetables along with a vitamin and mineral pack — are likely headed to facilities and schools in Asia, according to Jeremy Loader, the community engagement director for the local chapter of Rise.

Donning a pink bouffant cap and plastic gloves, Bridget Grant of East Palo Alto deftly heat-sealed plastic bags of the foodstuffs as part of a well-oiled assembly line of volunteers scooping, bagging, weighing and boxing the meals.

She wanted to volunteer to pack meals because she has seen through her local Rotary club involvement and her job at the Ravenswood School District what an impact having something to eat can make for a person.

“Just think of all the people around the world that don’t have,” she said, becoming emotional as she spoke.

“I know there’s a dire need, and we need to help those less fortunate than ourselves. And it feels so good to give back. It feels so good to do this,” Grant said.

The day of service was an extension to the Rotary District 5170 annual conference, which was held at San Jose State University on Saturday.

The district encompasses 54 different Rotary Club chapters with about 4,000 total members, covering portions of Alameda, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz Counties, according to Orrin Mahoney, the District Governor.

Mahoney said the conference is a great place for volunteers on the small and large scale to connect people with needs, pushing the cycle of volunteerism forward.

He was also encouraged to see so many young people out to help. “For them to come after school is out, at 8 am on a Sunday, that’s pretty cool,” he said.

In turn, the young volunteers said knowing they were helping someone in need made waking up early on a Sunday in summer much easier.

“I love meeting new people,” said Khuyen Nguyen, 16, who attends Yerba Buena High School in San Jose and is a part of the Interact club there.

“And it’s really fun interacting with others that care about hunger and world issues,” Nguyen said.

College student Vivian Luong, 19, who is back in her hometown of San Jose for the summer, helped spruce up some wood fencing with a fresh coat of paint at the Little Orchard homeless shelter in San Jose.

She said volunteering to help others is great for students.

“It’s important to open up your mind a little bit, like get our of your bubble,” she said Sunday, with paint still stuck to some of her fingers.

“I feel like a lot of times students get caught up in work and school, and you don’t really think about the greater community.”

Others at Little Orchard removed weeds and planted tomato, basil, and strawberry plants, along with two navel orange tree seedlings, which the residents of the shelter will be able to help care for.

Mitty Chang, the event coordinator for Community Day, said volunteering through a local Rotary club offers people not only a “warm fuzzy” feeling from doing good, but a chance to network with others in the broader community.

Heather Shaw of Santa Clara said it was rewarding to see how excited some of the residents of the shelter were about having a new fruit and vegetable garden to tend to.

“If we can give them a little shining light in all the struggles they’re having, that’s kind of where I’m at,” she said. “It’s just a couple hours of my time.”

Source: The Mercury News

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