Many hands make light work

Alexandrea Bonilla

What was planned to be a two-hour service project became a 30-minute activity when 25 students gathered to assemble over 600 dental hygiene kits for the Ogden Weber Community Action Partnership.

Student volunteers assemble dental hygiene kits in CCEL.
Student volunteers assemble dental hygiene kits. Photo credit: Alexandrea Bonilla

On Jan. 20, Weber State University’s Center for Community Engaged Learning planned a service project of assembling dental hygiene kits for OWCAP.

The Community Engagement Team planned a week filled with service projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Each service project was paired up with a community partner.

This particular project was paired with OWCAP, which works to assist disadvantaged families in Weber County through state-funded programs and community service projects.

Alternative Spring Break volunteers assemble kits.
Alternative Spring Breaks volunteers assemble kits. Photo credit: Alexandrea Bonilla

Each dental hygiene kit included a toothbrush, a timer, a dental floss pick and a tube of toothpaste.

“This year especially, I’ve just learned the importance of [service]. It’s just a way to connect,” Megan Ferney, vice president of the Community Engagement Team, said. “A lot of times we just focus on what’s happening in our own lives, but through these opportunities our vision is opened to what’s happening around us.”

CCEL has been working extra hard to plan events since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This is the first year since the outbreak that they have been able to encourage more than a limited number of students to attend events.

“I think there’s a lot of energy with just being out with people and coming to events and doing activities,” Naomi Elmer, the Large Days of Service chair for the CET, said. “I think a lot of students are super excited to get out and be able to make friends and do these service opportunities to make a difference as well.”

Dental hygiene kits included: a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss pick and timer.
Dental hygiene kits included a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss pick and timer. Photo credit: Alexandrea Bonilla

The CET started a new system this year in which they sent out a survey to their community partners to learn their most prominent needs and what kind of service would be the most helpful for them. After figuring out which needs CCEL can help meet, they assign a chair within the team to take over and plan an event.

CET also partnered with the Alternative Spring Breaks program for this project. The Alternative Spring Breaks program give students the opportunity to engage in direct service trips all over the world.

They currently have five trips planned for 2022: environmental sustainability in O’ahu, Hawaii, and Fort Worth, Texas; health and food insecurity in San Francisco, California; Native American issues and youth on the Sioux Reservation in South Dakota: local youth and civil rights in Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah.

Volunteers assemble dental hygiene kits.
Volunteers assemble dental hygiene kits. Photo credit: Alexandrea Bonilla

“We’re helping them, but they are helping us as well,” Ferney said. “They are helping us be more mindful of our community and allowing us to make a difference in ways that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”