CSUSB’s Office of Community Engagement Director, Diane Podolske, discusses how the annual Coyote Cares Day event turned into a virtual 5K event.
Q: How was the planning process different for this event this year compared to the previous years?
A: Typically, we are contacting our community partners for service projects, reserving food trucks and entertainment, and making sure we have everything ready for a fun day of service. Planning for this year was different because it focused more on publicity to recruit participants and to educate them on the level of food insecurity in our local communities. I guess I would say it was easier, but it is really fun to host an in-person service event like we typically do, and that fun makes all of the extra effort worth it.
Q: Were there any struggles you faced while making this event happen? Anything you and the team overcame?
A: We have never done a virtual event quite like this, and during the planning for the event, we were nervous that we wouldn’t have good participation. A typical Coyote Cares Day includes volunteer service with a celebration party of food trucks and live music at the end, and this was a very different type of event.
Q: Since this event lasted for an entire week and was completed from home, did you notice an increase or decrease in participation with CSUSB students and others?
A: We had over 500 participants during the week, which is slightly down from our usual attendance, but we were really pleased given that it was a virtual event. Everyone’s efforts resulted in a contribution of $2,120 to Feeding America. Given that Feeding America can purchase eight meals for every dollar donated, the CSUSB donation will result in approximately 17,000 meals! I hope everyone is really proud of this success!
Q: Could you tell me a bit more about Feeding America and why it was the charity of choice for this event?
A: Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization and they have an office and large food warehouse in the Inland Empire. Typically, about 11% of people living in San Bernardino or Riverside County are food insecure, and we know that the pandemic and resulting unemployment has dramatically increased the community’s needs. Since the Charity Miles program supports fundraisers for Feeding America, we thought raising money to fight food insecurity would be a cause that everyone could relate to and want to support.
Q: How do you think the app Charity Miles worked out for this event and could you tell me more about the app itself?
A: Charity Miles is a free phone app that helps you to earn money for charity every time you walk, run, bike or do any physically-centered activity. Based on how far you go, you earn money for the nonprofit you select just by using the app. The money comes from the corporate sponsors – all you have to do is participate. The app uses your phone’s GPS to track your movement, and you earn 10 cents a mile for biking and 25 cents a mile for walking and running.
I think using Charity Miles was a great success for our event. It is free and easy to use, and we’ve kept the CSUSB teams going for people who wish to continue to contribute to Feeding America. Even if you didn’t join in for Coyote Cares Day, please join the “CSUSB SB” or “CSUSB PDC” team and help us continue to raise funds to address food insecurity! Follow the steps in this link to join now!
Q: Did you participate in this event? If so, how was your experience?
A: Yes, I did. It was easy to use the app, and I found it motivating because I knew that the funds were going to a critical community need. Also, since I am now working from home in my virtual office, it was a daily reminder to step away from my computer screen and get some exercise!
Q: What did you learn from this event overall?
A: This event reminded me of the generous spirit of this university. Even when we are not physically together, we remain united in our desire to help others in the community.
Q: Do you have any plans for future events?
A: We are currently promoting November as a month of “thanks and giving.” We have posted service ideas for each day of the month on our website (engage.csusb.edu) and hope that the campus will give to the community by volunteering. Our website also provides details about the Do Good Award that students, faculty, and staff can receive by completing 25 hours of service this semester.