The ABCs of Volunteering
A is for Altruism

The most INSPIRATIONAL moment of President Mary E. Lyons’ 2003 inaugural address came when she spoke of how the university community lives up to its ideals, concluding, “We can, we will, we must do more.”

And more we did. USD was ranked sixth in the nation’s “Top 10 Service Universities” in Washington Monthly’s first annual college rankings in late 2005. USD is one of the top 81 colleges for community service in the current Princeton Review Guide. And those results are in large part due to the Center for Community-Service Learning, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.

In researching this story, we quickly realized that there is so much good being done by those affiliated with the university that we would only just be able to scratch the surface. So consider this a primer to campus volunteerism, a snapshot of a moment in time, a quick glimpse of some of the good works that take place every single day in and around USD.

[A] is for After School The after-school program at KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy isn’t your everyday homework help program — that’s where USD students step things up a notch, focusing on having fun while teaching kids about the real world. They prompt discussions about everything from what it’s like to go to college to the importance of healthy eating. On the latter topic, Brandye Combs, one of last fall’s coordinators, set it up like this: If you have a friend who eats pizza every day, how would you encourage her to make better choices? “They’re not afraid to discuss those real-world situations,” says Combs.

[B] is for Bayside At the Bayside Community Center, USD volunteers play a major role in improving the lives of Linda Vista residents. The BCC is where immigrants, refugees and other residents receive help with emergency food rations, health screenings and other services. Volunteers are involved with everything from helping children with math problems to working in the lunch delivery program for older residents. USD students become role models who can help kids see themselves someday going to college, and they talk about trips they’ve taken so children can learn about the world. “They’re like big brothers and sisters to all the kids here,” says Opaul Vorachak ‘96, director of children’s programs for the center. Many USD students have formed bonds with the children that remain tight well after graduation, thanks to e-mail. “I don’t know how our program would survive without students from USD,” Vorachak says. “That’s how incredibly important their involvement is.”

[C] is for COMPASSION Associate nursing Professor Anita Hunter is involved in projects in Mexico that provide compassionate service to vulnerable populations. A few times a year, she and other faculty and students help at a clinic outside Tijuana. She also takes nursing students to Cuerna-vaca for immersion Spanish courses while living at an orphanage and providing health assessments. “I’ve found international medical missions to be life-changing experiences,” Hunter says.

[D] is for DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RELIEF When staffers at the nonprofit Crime Victims Fund realized many of those in need were repeat clients, they decided to start a separate program just for them. Thus was born the Domestic Violence Independence Program, which aims to provide survivors and their children with money and services that will reduce their risk of being impacted by further violence. USD business school assistant Professor Steve Standifird is board president; he says the program is unique because it provides “cash right now” to those who need it. Clients are referred by various transitional housing programs, and funds are granted for everything from therapy expenses to emergency housing to food and shelter. Standifird says that volunteers and donations are always needed; call   (619) 465-4600   or go to

[E] IS FOR EDUCATION When students get to Monarch Schools, they’re two years behind their peers. This isn’t surprising, since the kids — who range from second graders to high school seniors — are either homeless or at-risk. More than 25 USD students currently volunteer there, providing one-on-one tutoring in every class. “It’s a positive experience for everyone,” says head teacher Ellen de la Cruz. With a mission to help the kids achieve their dream of a “normal, productive life through education,” Monarch is always looking for people to help out. Call   (619) 685-8242   or go to

[F] is for FEET Kids in Linda Vista are provided with shoes and clothing through the practical “Shoes that Fit” program. It’s easy for those interested to take part: the kids are identified by teachers, parents and school nurses, and specifics about each child’s needs are posted on campus. Visit the Office of the Center for Awareness, Service and Action (CASA) in the University Center, Room 161 for more information about where to find names, shoe sizes and directions on how to pitch in and give those tootsies room to grow. For further information about how you can get involved, contact Andi Lovano at

[G] is for GREEK Philanthropic work is a big part of every sorority and fraternity on campus; these groups strive for “social justice and selfless service.” During November’s Greek Week, they all banded together to raise money and donations for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, the groups held a clothing drive for the Store Front — a homeless shelter for San Diego teens — and assembled hygiene kits which were shipped to poverty stricken areas around the world. Also, a campus-wide letter writing campaign to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital raised tens of thousands of dollars. Now a new national philanthropic sorority called Alpha Chi Omega has sprung up at USD. The organization has a mission of providing a dedicated career mentor for every member, in order to help deserving USD students further their career pursuits. The sorority’s alumnae include U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Time magazine’s 2002 Person of the Year Sherron Watkins — the Enron whistleblower — and Deidre Downs, 2005 Miss America. To learn more, go to

[H] IS FOR HOSPICE Ann Taylor, who is earning her Ph.D. in nursing at USD, volunteers with the residents who live at Tijuana’s Casa Hogar Las Memorias. The home for ex-prisoners and others with HIV/AIDS — where the showers are always cold and sometimes there’s no water at all — provides hospice care and helps get the residents off drugs. Taylor has volunteered there since 2000, bringing supplies and doing whatever needs to be done. She also practices healing touch to relax the patients or relieve pain. “I’m the ‘white gringo’ that comes and does ‘the hand thing,’” she says, smiling at their description. She brings them comfort, hope and friendship.

She also brings other USD nursing students to help out. They teach the men how to maintain a sterile medical environment and do dressings more effectively. And Taylor teaches symptom management for those who don’t have the medication that could prolong their lives. “There are people 30 miles from us who have no shoes, no socks, no winter jackets,” Taylor says. “It is quite a place. I love going down there. They’ve become like my family. They think I come to help them. They help me. They’re addicted to drugs. I’m addicted to them.” To find out how you can help, call Taylor at   (858) 414-6188.

[I] is for Immigrant Immigrants at both the South Sudan Community Center and the International Rescue Committee’s First Things First program benefit from the talents of USD students. FTF offers English literacy help for mothers of preschoolers. At the SSCC, USD volunteers mentor children and offer homework help. Senior Meredith Stocking, USD’s site coordinator for both programs, gets inspiration from volunteering. “It gives me a lot of perspective on how blessed I am,” she says. Stocking recently helped a woman who is learning English work on health-related vocabulary since she wants to go into health care. “For me, volunteering is about learning and connecting with people.”

[J] is for JUVENILES Downtown San Diego’s Toussaint Academy of the Arts and Sciences serves teens in need of a home; USD alum John Weiss ‘03 (M.S.E.L.) and fellow alums find teaching self-leadership there extremely fulfilling: “The kids see that we’re just average people who are successful.” Along with teaching life skills, the group helps out with internships, jobs, grants and letters of recommendation. To learn more, go to

[K] is for KITCHEN Ever wonder what happens to all the campus food when the students aren’t around to eat it? For the past eight years, when Christmas break arrives, Dining Services packs up the perishables from each campus dining outlet and donates them to the Third Avenue Charitable Organization (TACO). The food is then distributed to people in need, including the homeless and local shelters. Go to

[L] is for LEGAL CLINICS You’re a single mother cleaning houses and you’ve been hit with a half-million dollar tax bill incurred by your criminal ex-husband who’s committed fraud and fled the country. Where to turn for help? USD Legal Clinics exists for situations just like that one, and did, in fact, help the woman rid herself of the bill. Other clinic specialties include helping children get their special needs met by their schools. Call   (619) 260-7470  .

[M] is for MATH Math strikes fear into roughly half the population. Assistant math Professor Perla Myers aims to show elementary students how it can be — gulp — fun. “It helps them see that math is not something they should fear,” says Myers, also a volunteer elementary math teacher. Every semester, Family Math Night gives aspiring teachers a chance to experience how great it is to see a kid get a math concept. Math professor Lynn McGrath and School of Leadership and Education Sciences professor Bobbi Hansen also have gotten their students involved in Family Math Night. Parents have reported their children were so fired up afterward, they wanted to do more math. Contact Myers at   (619) 260-4600  , ext. 7932.

[N] IS FOR NEPAL The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice has been working to end the crisis in Nepal since the institute opened. While grants cover many of the activities, it’s IPJ volunteer interns who compile information for the online Peace and Justice Update on Nepal and other countries in conflict. “They learn a lot about issues like human rights,” says Dee Aker, IPJ’s deputy director. “Their Web updates keep USD informed about what’s going on.” The current volunteer for Nepal, Andrea Szabolesi, also prepared the briefing book for Aker’s most recent trip to Nepal. Go to

[O] IS FOR ONE Described as a “diverse coalition of faith-based and anti-poverty organizers,” the ONE campaign was launched by a coalition of activists, including U2’s Bono, and is endorsed by celebrities ranging from Tom Hanks to Cameron Diaz in an effort to rally Americans — one by one — to fight extreme poverty and global AIDS. Currently, students are planning a “ONE in the Classroom Day” and a possible trip to Washington, D.C., where a student will have the chance to lobby on behalf of the ONE campaign. To learn more, go to

[P] is for PRISONS “If you believe in God’s forgiveness, if one soul can be saved, maybe we’ve done our job.” That’s John Ferber, director of commercial real estate for the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, talking about his work with the Kairos Prison Ministry program. At the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility where he works with inmates, most are in for life. “They have nothing to look forward to except maybe the after-life.” The program gives inmates hope, inspiration, love and forgiveness. Is that hard? “Yes and no. We’re there mostly to listen. We’re not preaching at them,” says Ferber. To learn more about the program, go to

[Q] is for Quality of Life The Thanksgiving House project is all about improving the quality of life for an older Linda Vista resident who may not be able to keep up with home repairs. Graduate students and other volunteers gather resources and learn to do painting, plumbing, carpentry — whatever needs to be done. They perform the work just before Thanksgiving, turning over a much-improved home in time for the holiday. Professor Barbara Withers began the project to provide valuable project management experience to business students, but the students get much more out of it. Meeting the elderly blind man and his son who received the latest home makeover was heartwarming, says Christy Soto, an M.B.A. student and one of last fall’s two project managers. “They were very sweet, and I think that really touched our hearts and drew us into the project,” she adds. To get involved, go to

[R] IS FOR ROMERO CENTER No story about USD’s impact on the wider world would be complete without a shout-out to the Oscar Romero Center for Faith in Action. An off-shoot of University Ministry, the center runs immersion trips, consciousness-raising events and ongoing programs that include preparing meals every Thursday at downtown San Diego’s St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen. Coordinator Glen Davis says that outreach emphasizes theological reflection: “We always talk about why we’re doing this,” he says. “We try to root our actions in the principles of Catholic social teaching.” Call   (619) 260-4897  .

[S] is for SERVICE Led with serene capability by director Elaine Elliott, the Center for Community-Service Learning is an incredibly busy place. More than 800 students signed up for CSL during the fall semester, with 100 more work study students, not to mention the 600 or so who volunteer under their own steam. When asked to point to a single program that epitomizes campus philanthropy, Elliott simply laughs: “There’s the Social Issues Committee and the Trans-Border Institute. And long-term service, like the Peace Corps. And the law school clinics and the trips to Tijuana and …” To learn more, call   (619) 260-4798  .

[T] IS FOR TAX RETURNS When accounting Professor Tom Dalton was in practice as a CPA, he relished the times when he could waive his fee to help an elderly couple who had a complicated tax situation, but couldn’t afford to hire an accountant. Now, he volunteers his services for the nonprofit Friends of the Poor, which collects clothing and money for people in Mexico. “It’s a tremendous organization that does a tremendous amount of good. I try to keep them in good graces with the government.” That and other volunteer tax help he provides give him a good feeling, he says.

[U] is FOR UNDERSERVED Lack of health insurance is a grim fact of life for many. Thankfully, health professionals like Cheryl Ahern-Lehmann, Adult Nurse Practitioner and Associate Clinical Professor, step in, pro bono. She takes her students to San Diego’s St. Vincent de Paul clinic, where they provide exams. And every spring, Ahern-Lehmann and students volunteer at the San Diego Women’s Health Care Fair, where they provide care to homeless and poor women. She also serves as faculty “ambassador” for the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to those interested in working with the health-care underserved after graduation.

[V] is for Volunteering as a Team While it stands to reason that USD athletics teams would band together to improve their skills and beat their opponents, there’s a philanthropic tendency at work that may be less apparent: The women’s basketball team is committed to mentoring students at downtown San Diego’s Kimbrough Elementary School, and all women’s teams get together for Women and Girls in Sports Day, when mini-clinics are set up for girls to practice athletic skills. Every year, the men’s golf team volunteers time to help the PGA Tour raise money for their charitable organizations. Around the holidays, the whole Toreros community gets involved with November’s TLC Toy Drive, where attendees bring new unwrapped toys to games for needy families. Additionally, more than 75 student athletes volunteer to shop with underprivileged children to help them pick out gifts for their families and themselves during the Christmas season.

[W] is for WILDLIFE Save the wolf. That’s something psychology professor Dan Moriarty helps do through his longtime involvement with the California Wolf Center near Julian. “I think we’re making significant contributions to maintain our nation’s ecological integrity while rescuing at least one endangered species,” Moriarty says. He’s gotten a steady stream of USD students involved. The work is gratifying: “You can’t help but form a connection to the animals in your care,” Moriarty says. A recent release into the wild of a wolf from the center “was very emotional for everyone and a very exciting moment.” Go to

[XYZ] IS FOR ALL THE REST In putting this story together, it occurred to us that it might have been easier to talk about who isn’t volunteering at USD than it was to select a mere handful from the hundreds of altruists who populate every campus nook and cranny. While it’s inevitable we’ve left many people and projects out, we wanted to shoehorn in a few more selfless souls: Newly created charter school Keiller Leadership Academy has enlisted Lonnie Rowell, Lea Hubbard and Dean Paula Cordeiro of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences to work with students in the classrooms, help increase student academic achievement and serve as members of Keiller’s Board of Directors … The English department’s David Hay directs the Southeast San Diego Tutoring Program, which lets USD students work one-on-one with kids who need extra help … Associate Professor of Nursing Kathy James speaks to groups about healthy eating … Florence Gillman, Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, is an usher co-captain — along with her husband — at the Old Globe Theatre … And finally, theology professor Jim Ewing volunteers with one of his students as a counselor to the homeless who seek help through the UCSD medical clinic at First Lutheran Church in downtown San Diego. Keep up the good work.

The ABCs of Volunteering: A Virtual Guide

Want to pitch in and help make the world a better place? Below, you’ll find links to some online resources highlighted in the Spring 2006 USD Magazine feature story, “A is for Altruism: The ABCs of Volunteering.”

Alpha Chi Omega is a national philanthropic sorority that pledges to enrich the lives of members through lifetime opportunities for friendship, leadership, learning and service.

Linda Vista’s Bayside Community Center works to help ease the struggle for many needy people who live in north central San Diego. The center encourages people to participate in its programs and services, which are designed to strengthen individual potential and build a healthy, active community.

The mission of the California Wolf Center is to increase awareness and conservation efforts in protecting and understanding the importance of all wildlife and wild lands by focusing on the history, biology and ecology of the North American gray wolf through education, exhibition, reproduction of endangered species and studies of captive wolf behavior.

USD’s Center for Awareness, Service, and Action (CASA) has a mission to increase awareness of the local and global community by expanding and enriching service-learning opportunities, promoting cultural awareness and social consciousness and making a difference by providing outreach opportunities and making lasting connections between USD and the community.

Center for Community Service-Learning Through service, the Center for Community Service-Learning engages USD students, faculty, staff and alumni to learn in partnership with the community and make lifelong commitments to promote social change and justice. Programs include course-based service-learning, a student-run co-curricular service, America Reads/Counts work-study tutoring and a campus-wide social issues committee, which sponsors an annual conference as well as speakers and special events. All projects and programs depend on student leadership.

The Crime Victims Fund is dedicated to providing financial support to victims of crimes that are committed in San Diego County. Established in 1982 to address the immediate needs of low- and fixed-income crime victims, it is self-described as the only organization in California that provides such emergency assistance to crime victims.

First Things First is an educational program for refugee mothers and their pre-school children with the goal of  actively engaging refugee women in their new community and preparing young children for success in the American school system. Students are Somali, Sudanese, Ethiopian, and Eritrean.  

The nonprofit group Friends of the Poor collects clothing and money for people in Mexico.

Dr. Anita Hunter works with Hispanic migrant children and families and internationally with children and families in Ghana, West Africa, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. She serves with the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties as past chair of the Global Advancement Committee and current chair of the International Special Interest Group. She is also a member of the Policy and Standards Committee of the International Nurse Practitioner and Advanced Practice Nursing Network.

The International Rescue Committee is a global leader in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by conflict and oppression.

Kairos Prison Ministry International Inc. is the parent organization of a body of ministries addressing the spiritual needs of incarcerated men, women and children, of their families and of those who work in the prison environment. Inmates call Kairos volunteers “the ones that come back.”

Keiller Leadership Academy is a charter school that is involved in a partnership with USD. The university provides Keiller teachers with professional support and students with tutors and mentors. Paula Cordeiro, dean of USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences, is the president of Keiller’s board of directors.

KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy is looking for committed and caring people who can serve as volunteers for arts and cultural or sports enrichment classes, office assistance, sports team coaches, field trip captains and facilities projects.

Monarch Schools provide an accredited education to homeless and at-risk kids while caring for basic needs such as health care, food, clothing and personal hygiene. Community help can make a difference.

The Nepal Project USD’s Institute for Peace & Justice received a one-year grant titled “Building Constituencies for Peace and Democratic Development in Nepal” beginning Sept. 1, 2005, from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The project is intended to prepare various constituencies for greater participation in peacebuilding and democratic processes.

ONE is billed as the “campaign to make poverty history.” ONE is a new effort by Americans to rally Americans — one by one — to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty. The ONE Campaign is engaging Americans through a diverse coalition of faith-based and anti-poverty organizers to show the steps individuals can take to fight global AIDS and poverty.

The Oscar Romero Center for Faith in Action offers the following service opportunities to all faculty, staff, undergraduate students, graduate students and administrators: delivering meals to homebound AIDS and HIV patients, helping in the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen and visiting Tijuana through the “lens of faith,” as well as offering the Peace and Justice film series and much more.

The San Diego Coalition To Stop the Genocide in Sudan has a mission tou nite organizations and individuals with a shared commitment to stop the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and channel humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese refugees in Chad and the internally displaced Darfuri people who remain in Sudan.

The Thanksgiving House project’s mission is to improve the quality of life of deserving Linda Vista citizens by renovating their houses. This mission is accomplished by USD graduate students enrolled in a project management course. The house renovation project provides students with the opportunity to learn and apply the tools and techniques of project management while serving their community.

The Third Avenue Charitable Organization (T.A.C.O.) has a mission to create pathways to an open and inclusive community by welcoming and nurturing people in need. T.A.C.O.’s purpose is to address the daily needs of the poor by welcoming, nurturing, and building community. The focus is to help people gain self-esteem and independence.

The Toussaint Academy of the Arts and Sciences serves high school-age adolescents, ages 14 to 17, who meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines for being homeless, including adolescents who do not have suitable homes to return to, adolescents whose families reside at St. Vincent de Paul Village and those who live in other homeless settings, such as the street or emergency shelters.  

The USD Legal Clinics are funded by University of San Diego and, in part, by grants from the State Bar of California and the U.S. Department of Treasury. The latter grants limit services to lower income individuals and families. The myriad areas off assistance include mental health advocacy, land use, family law and immigration. If you are interested in obtaining free assistance from USD Legal Clinics, or have any questions, call   (619) 260-7470  .

If you know of a worthy organization that you’d like us to consider linking on this page, e-mail details to