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Nearly 5,000 UCLA volunteers help out at schools, beaches, other sites

September 22, 2009 |  1:33 pm

Paintbrush in hand, UCLA junior Jacob Casteneda was putting a fresh coat of brown paint this morning on the exterior of one of the many bungalows at Samuel Gompers Middle School. He was among an army of about 4,600 UCLA volunteers who came to the South Los Angeles campus and seven other spots around the L.A. area for a day of community service.

“It’s always nice to reach out to the community and it’s always great to help out kids,” said Casteneda, who recently transferred to UCLA from Santa Monica College. “We need to take the time to give a hand to kids who are without.”

UCLA’s first Volunteer Day brought painters, cleaners and gardeners to four other schools, Griffith Park, Point Dume State Beach and the veterans hospital and cemetery in Westwood. About a hundred buses ferried the UCLA students and faculty to those sites, with transportation costs and other expenses covered by a $250,000 grant from the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, who has said he wants to engage the university more with the surrounding city, joined in the painting work at Gompers and said he was delighted with the turnout. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt, Block said that a great public university needs to have excellent research and education but also “a sense of volunteerism and a sense of public duty.”

-- Larry Gordon