CSUN’s largest food and clothing drive

Donnella Collison

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The United We Serve Volunteer Program displayed thousands of donated item from CSUN's largest food drive on the Oviatt Library stairs, Thursday, Nov. 19. Bodhi Severns / Contributing Photographer

The United We Serve Volunteer Program displayed thousands of donated item from CSUN's largest food drive on the Oviatt Library stairs, Thursday, Nov. 19. Bodhi Severns / Contributing Photographer

More than 1,500 items of clothing that were donated in the Unified We Stand Volunteer Program's food and clothing drive are displayed on clothes lines, Nov. 19. Angelica Bonomo / Staff photographer

More than 1,500 items of clothing that were donated in the Unified We Stand Volunteer Program's food and clothing drive are displayed on clothes lines, Nov. 19. Angelica Bonomo / Staff photographer

CSUN’s Unified We Stand volunteer program displayed the more than 2,500 donated items of food and 1,500 donated items of clothing on the steps of the Oviatt Library Nov. 19,during what is now considered CSUN’s largest food and clothing drive.

Ryan Mason, a fourth-year sociology and Pan African studies major, and the liaison for clubs and organizations in the volunteer program, said the display, a part of Homeless Awareness Month programs, was mostly for the benefit of students.

“A lot of students feel like they might be alone in trying to make change,” Mason said. “Other than just providing food for the homeless, it’s more to show students how they can help just by donating two or three cans.”

According to Mason, the food and clothing donated will be picked up by MEND (Meeting Each Need with Dignity), an organization dedicated to “relieving the effects of poverty,” which will then provide the items to families in need.

Dr. Anthony Ratcliff, a professor in the Pan African Studies department, took his Literature of the African and Caribbean Experience class to view the display and make their donations.

“It was important to show them (students) how everybody as a class can do one thing to make a difference,” Ratcliff said.

He said the visual representation of all the donations was more tangible evidence for students of their efforts.

“The visual is very aesthetically pleasing,” he said. “Just to see it is good, knowing that this is going to help people make it through the winter.”

He said the display also taught his students other valuable lessons.

“As a class, we discuss poverty in places like Africa. Poverty is real here in America,” Ratcliff said. “This is a chance for students to think globally, but help out locally.”

Kiese Vita, a senior English and Pan African studies double major and a student in Ratcliff’s class, said the display was “awesome” and inspiring and hoped that it would serve as encouragement for students to participate and get more involved.

Associated Students President Abel Pacheco and Vice President Conor Lansdale stopped by to drop off their donations and said they were impressed and moved by the display.

“The simple art of displaying the food just shows how a few donations by students led to this,” Lansdale said. “Hopefully this leads to more awareness. There are a lot of lesser privileged people out there, and this just shines a light on that.”

“I think it’s good that the CSUN community is giving to those in need especially in this tough economic time,” Pacheco said.

Curious passers-by frequently stopped to ask about the display and the organization responsible for it.

“They said they were blown away, that it was really cool and some even left campus to go home or to the store to bring back a donation because they were inspired,” said Justin Weiss, the coordinator for the volunteer program.

“Faculty and staff came up and said that they have never seen anything like it on campus,” he added.

Weiss said that as a result, many students have signed up to be a part of the newly revived volunteer program, which officially launches on the first day of the spring semester, and to become involved in any possible way.

Getting students to become more involved, Mason said, is the main goal of the volunteer program.

“We are trying to evoke more proactive behavior from students and get them to help out more,” he said. “Throughout this month we are trying to get students to feel more empathy for those in poverty and to create a change in consciousness.”

Weiss said that currently, the program is planning for the next semester and deciding what issues they will address.

“It doesn’t stop here. We are trying to not provide just a Band-Aid for an issue, but to work with other agencies and individuals to create positive long-lasting change in the community,” he said. “We planted the seed this month.”