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November 5, 2011

Conference to highlight volunteerism

Students and community members will have an opportunity to get excited about helping others, at a conference being held at the state University College at Oneonta on Saturday, several involved said.

The Center for Social Responsibility and Community at the State University College at Oneonta is cosponsoring the 11th annual Conference on Volunteerism and Social Responsibility from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration begins at 9:15 a.m. in the Morris Conference Center on the college’s campus. Admission is free, and community members are invited to attend. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and every participant will receive an official conference T-shirt.

The college worked with the O’Connor Center for Community Service at SUNY Delhi, SUNY Cobleskill and the Oneonta Job Corps Center in this collaborative effort, said Center for Social Responsibility Director Linda Drake.

“It’s an opportunity for participants to get excited about volunteering and making a difference,” she said. These kinds of activities make students better citizens. Increasing civic engagement of students is part of the college’s strategic goals, she said.

The workshop should build in the successful SUNY Oneonta effort that has students averaging about 55,000 hours of service to their community.

The program will open with a keynote address by Stephen G. Post, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. The award-winning author of “The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times,” Post is recognized as a leader in the study of altruism, love and compassion in the context of scientific research, health care delivery, philosophy and spirituality.

Following that participants can attend up to three workshops.

 These include an interactive session by Julie Dostal of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, entitled Truth in Advertising: Media and Social Responsibility. It will provide an opportunity for her to interact with participants about such topics as the realities of how alcohol use is reflected in the media, and body image.

Bonnie Laugen, the interim director at the Kennedy-Willis Center at Pathfinder Village in Edmeston, will lead the group: “Pathfinder Community Partners:  An Experience You’ll Never Forget.” Pathfinder Village is a community where people with developmental disabilites can live and be independent and have meaningful lives, she said.

The session includes a panel discussion with four people who live at Pathfinder and volunteer in the community, who will talk about what life is like there. They will also talk about the importance of volunteers helping the residents. Hopefully when participants learn about the programs, more will want to help out, she said. One student from the college already volunteers there, she said.

Also presenting is SUNY Delhi instructor Peter Campbell who will talk about “Alternate Spring Breaks: Rebuilding America One House at a Time.” Over the past six years he has worked with other volunteers, taking students to Habitat for Humanity sites in the South, to help rebuild homes. This is in addition to work he does with students locally to help people rebuild from recent disasters. During the colder months, students enjoy going to warmer climates, he said.

One of the students volunteers, culinary major Kelsey DeHey, will be helping him present. “There are a lot of different opportunities,” he said.

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