Oct. 19 marked UW Tacoma’s ninth annual Day of Caring — a community service event. This year’s projects included Earth Lab, the UWT Giving Garden, St. Leo’s Food Connection and Metro Parks. Student volunteers were dispersed into four different project groups based on their site preference. 

Earth Lab focused mainly on how the environment affects the community, wanting to instill readiness and resilience. The group traveled to various locations distributing a survey to several of Tacoma occupants. Two questions were asked: “What environmental challenges do you face?” and “How are you coping with them?” The project surveyed a variety of people.

“We had the opportunity to interact with the homeless community and it was definitely a special experience because I got to translate for some of them, Spanish speakers, because they don’t really have a voice to speak upon problems here in the environment when if it consists of mental health to, like, the air that they breath in,” said Junior Daniela Quiroz, a Criminal Justice student with a minor in Spanish.

Students also had the chance to volunteer at the Giving Garden, UWT’s community garden, located on the corner of 21st and Fawcett. They pulled up invasive weeds, planted succulents on the green roof and mulched several areas. The produce grown at the Giving Garden will be given to The Pantry and several associates. 

“The work we did allows the garden to keep providing fresh produce, and that feeds food insecure students on campus,” said Willow Raeburn, a junior Pack Adviser majoring in Ethnic Gender and Labor Studies. “It also goes towards our community partners like St. Leo’s to make sure people don’t just have microwave meals when you are food insecure but fresh produce that’s good for them.” 

At St Leo’s Food Connection, students bagged bulk oatmeal, separating them into smaller bags to be distributed to the public. They also escorted clients to available food and supplies, bagged their items and escorted them out to their vehicle if assistance was necessary.

“I’m an older student, so I’ve had a connection with St. Leo’s since I was fifteen when I was a runaway,” stated Heather Swanson, site leader for the St. Leo’s project and Social Work graduate student. “I would go to St Leo’s when they have the hot food there… It was interesting today with the dynamic; I was not the one standing in line. I was serving those who were in line … There was a lot of impact for me personally.” 

The Metro Park’s group spent the day restoring Titlow Park on 6th Ave. They learned about invasive, non-native species of plants and how to identify and remove them. The plants which were given the most attention to were Himilayn blackberries and ivy. Towards the later half of the day they shoveled, wheelbarrowed and evened mulch.

Many students agreed that this was an eye-opening experience. Several expressed interested in wanting to participate again, and also encouraged other students to join next year.

“There’s a lot you can do as a volunteer,” said Tiffany Eaton, Healthcare and Leadership student, “I think I made an important impact just because I showed up. I showed up to make a difference, to be engaged and just be aware in issues we do have. I don’t think we can solve anything unless we are aware.”

Quoriz also believed their experience volunteering at Day of Caring to be beneficial.

“It’s a great opportunity to build connections, not only with the community but with your peers as well,” Quioriz stated. “Today I made new friends. Today I got invited to new clubs, basically hang out with new classmates to interact with. It’s a great experience. It’s not about the hours, it’s more about about the connections that you make.”

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