Category Archives: Volunteering

Seattle Alumni Put on Aprons for an Evening to Help Alleviate Poverty

By: Haley Shapley, C’06

Thanks to a little help from the Penn Club of Seattle, at least one person will be able to transition from the streets to a job in the hospitality industry.

It was all part of Guest Chef Night at FareStart, a culinary job training and placement program for homeless individuals in Seattle. Since 1992, FareStart has provided opportunities for nearly 7,000 people to transform their lives, while also serving more than 6 million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children.

The tables are set for FareStart's Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

The tables are set for FareStart’s Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

Each Thursday evening, prominent guest chefs come to work with the students as part of their 16-week food-service program. The three-course meal is served by volunteers, which is where Penn alumni came in.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening's menu.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening’s menu.

Although none in the group had any restaurant experience to speak of, on April 24 we got a crash course in the art of serving, learning the importance of checking back within two bites, refilling waters regularly (and not touching the rim of the glass!), and how to properly carry a tray. Chef Sam Hassan of Maple Falls Cafe provided a tasting of the Mandioca Frita, NW by SE Pasta, and Mango Raspberry Cobbler beforehand so that we’d be able to answer questions about the ingredients when guests inquired (Just what is yuca? Ask us; we know!).

The featured servers tonight - the Penn Club of Seattle!

The featured servers tonight – the Penn Club of Seattle!

Penn Alumni getting trained

Penn Alumni getting trained

Six hours, countless pitchers of water, and a few cramped fingers later, we’d served 169 diners, raising a total of $7,116 for FareStart’s training programs, including donations of $181 and tips of $1,327. All in all, it’s more than enough to give one student safe housing, the full 16-week culinary program, and comprehensive wrap-around services.

It's a full house.

It’s a full house.

The program has a 90 percent job placement rate within three months for students after graduation, and each Guest Chef Night includes a graduation ceremony with those who’ve completed the 16-week program successfully. On our night, we watched two grads get ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, including Tina, who didn’t miss a single day. “It’s made me stay focused instead of every day wondering what’s going to happen,” she said.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Bob, who moved to Seattle in July with a big plan that fell apart, was equally grateful. “I thank this program; it really rescued me,” he said. “I learned a lot and I appreciate it. This program is ingenious to solve the problem of homelessness and poverty.”

Bellies full of delectable ingredients like shaved Parmigiano, smoked fish, and Chantilly cream, we scattered into the night back to our respective homes — energized by the experience and humbled by the fact that we made a contribution, however small, to the students being able to have homes to return to as well.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

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I’m Interviewing Because…

Author: Liz PinnieLiz Blog

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Penn Club of Utah Fifth Annual Day of Service

By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly

Art Warsoff, W’83, and his wife Diane Warsoff, W’83, submitted this note about the Penn Club of Utah’s Fifth Annual Day of Service:

On April 5th, the Penn Alumni Club of Utah held our 5th annual day of service. This year we volunteered with Tree Utah and followed it up with lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Red Iguana.

We are glad that the weather cooperated and we were able to get all four large columnar oaks and an apple tree planted at Wheeler Historical Farm. We were also able to cheer runners participating in a 5k run which went right past us.

As in prior years, we invited alumni from Princeton, MIT, Franklin & Marshall and University of Virginia to join us. All twenty-five alumni, friends and family that participated are looking forward to next year’s activity.

Planting trees in Utah.

Planting trees in Utah.

You can see more photos from the day’s event here.

Many Penn Clubs around the world contribute to their communities through service activities. Some recent examples are from the Penn Club of Northern California, Penn Club of Philadelphia, and a group in Los Angeles, Penn Serves LA, that includes members of both PennClubLA and the Wharton Club of Southern California. You can also read about the Penn Club of Utah’s 4th Day of Service here.

We hope that many other clubs will plan events to serve their communities – and share your story with us. Please contact Kiera Reilly, C’93, from the regional clubs team, or your regional clubs liaison, if you would like to plan an event or you organized an event you would like to share on our blog.

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A Long-Expected Party

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

 

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

~Benjamin Franklin

Today, the Interview Program staff is preparing for a party.  Or rather, 52 parties.  Between April 3rd and 27th, alumni from around the world will be hosting local events to welcome the newest cohort of admitted students to Penn.  These events are sponsored by generous Penn alumni from dozens of interview committees (from Phoenix to Pakistan), and while each event will undoubtedly have a slightly different flavor, the common celebration of a Penn education is sure to be a constant.

We’re also doing our part to ensure that each admitted student event is stocked with red-and-blue party supplies, by shipping boxes of Penn-themed gear to more than 15 states and 20 countries.  So, if you happen to hear a chorus of “Hurrah, hurrah, Pennsylvania” coming from somewhere in your town during the month of April, don’t be surprised.  In fact, we’d encourage you to join in the celebration, and to help us welcome Penn’s Class of 2018 to the four incredible years that lie ahead!

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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Author: Liz Pinnie

Yesterday a friend from Admissions stopped by the Interview Program Office for a cup of coffee during his break from sitting in committee (yes, it’s that time of year!).  As he melted into a chair and took a slug of his coffee, we started to chat about his impressions on reading hundreds upon hundreds of interviews.

What has recently struck J. about interview reports is the ability of interviewers- of all Penn class years and schools- to touch upon those certain qualities that makes Penn Penn, and a Quaker a Quaker.  Interviews took place via skype, phone, and in person conversation all over the world this year- from Dubai to Detroit, from Slovakia to Santa Monica- from alumni ranging in age from 22 to 85.

In 64 years, there have been a few changes at Penn- a transition from typewriters to computers to tablets, the conversion from Penn-specific building to community oriented growth in West Philadelphia, the evolution from weekly letters home to dorm hall phone calls to texts, the creation of Locust Walk as a pedestrian thoroughfare, the full integration of women to the University, and growth through eight different Presidents (among a few other changes- The Arch, anyone!?).

However, what we’re seeing from interview reports is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Throughout Penn’s past, a passion for activity both inside and outside of the classroom has remained, along with a desire for growth in knowledge, a hunger for integration, and excitement for innovation.

Over 12,000 of your fellow alumni are discovering students with these indelible Penn qualities from all over the world through interviews- if you’d like to help, join the Interview Program by clicking here, and share with us what you think makes a Quaker a Quaker.

 

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A Palestra Proposal

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

The Penn Band always knows how to keep things interesting at The Palestra. On Saturday, Penn Men’s Basketball fans witnessed a Penn Band marriage proposal during a media timeout. Hurrah for Penn love, and congratulations to the newly engaged couple!

A Penn Band proposal at The Palestra on Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Penn Band proposal at The Palestra on Saturday, March 1, 2014

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Athletics, Campus Life, Events, Penn Basketball, Philadelphia, Stephanie Y., Uncategorized, Volunteering

Penn Serves LA: Holidays are a Time for Giving

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

Holidays are a time for giving, and also for giving back. Fourteen years ago a man named Tom Bagamane and his sister decided to pack forty grocery bags and hand them out to homeless people they saw near home and work. The weekend of December 12 – 15, 2013, volunteers with The Giving Spirit headed to all parts of Los Angeles and handed full duffle bags to 2,600 homeless people. The bags were not dropped off in parks or near shelters, rather The Giving Spirit volunteers found isolated people and interacted with them in the process of handing over a bag filled with fresh and canned food, socks, hats, rain gear, toiletries and the like, along with an industrial strength blanket.

Giving Spirit group Dec.13.2013

On the Friday night of that weekend, over fifty Penn Serves LA volunteers of all ages congregated at a church in West LA to help to make greeting cards and pack Tupperware and ziplocks with necessities for The Giving Spirit’s bags. As Mr. Bagamane told the Penn crowd, The Giving Spirit knows it cannot cure homelessness, but it hopes to make the holidays and the coldest part of winter just a little easier for “our friends living on the street.” He asked the Penn alumni how it would feel to never hear your name spoken or to line up with your kids just to have a roof over your head for a few hours.

Giving Spirit 1 Dec.13.2013

Giving Spirit 2 Dec.13.2013

The Penn group pitched in for a few hours – some hauling heavy boxes, some joining the assembly lines, some binding blankets. It was a cold night, but we had lots of company and warm food provided by local restaurants…and we were reminded yet again how very lucky we are not to live in a tent or a box on the street. After a fulfilling and collegial evening, our Penn alumni headed back to their cars and homes, and over the Penn shirts they had donned many wore The Giving Spirit t-shirt emblazoned with, “GIVE HOPE LOVE”…and that’s what the holidays are all about!

Giving Spirit 4 Dec.13.2013

Giving Spirit 3 Dec.13.2013

All alumni, Penn parents, families and their children are invited to the next Penn Serves LA event on Sunday, February 23, 2014, from 4:00 – 7:00 pm at One to One Outreach. Back by popular demand, we will return to assemble and deliver boxes of food to the low income, food-insecure of South Central Los Angeles. Children over 8 years are invited to attend. Bring a bit of joy and relief to those in need with us. Click here to sign up for this event.

About Penn Serves LA – Started in 2012, Penn Serves offers a way for direct community service for local Penn alumni and their children to serve Los Angeles’ most needy populations. We partner with established nonprofits and grassroots organizations for one-time volunteer opportunities. So far, we’ve served meals to the homeless, delivered food to low income families, planned activities with immigrant children, and so much more. Please contact us if you’d like to help at a future event via email at pennservesla@gmail.com or visit our website.

Read about our past events:

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

 

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Great Outcomes

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

Well done is better than well said.

~Ben Franklin

As we look to the winter months ahead, I’d like to to acknowledge the extraordinary achievements of our alumni interviewers around the world.  In Early Decision this year, Penn admitted the most accomplished cohort of applicants in the school’s history.   Our alumni interviewers helped to make that possible.  In the span of just a few short weeks in November, Penn alumni interviewed more than 5600 Early Decision and QuestBridge applicants, covering all 50 US States and 78 countries on six continents.  The total interview coverage for Early Decision applicants was a tremendous 97%, compared with about 81% the year before.

Of course, there are many interviews still to come.  Penn’s Regular Decision applicant pool will likely include more than 25,000 students from over 140 countries, and our extraordinary alumni will work to reach as many of these students as possible throughout January and February.  We are enormously proud of the way our past Penn students contribute to future classes at the university, and we’re optimistic that this will continue to be a record-breaking year!

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Penn Serves LA Sending Holiday Warmth to Our Troops

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

Do you remember receiving that handwritten or hand crafted card and feeling special?  That is exactly the sentiment Penn Serves volunteers hope to give to our troops serving overseas or those healing in hospitals this holiday season.

On November 17th, Penn Serves LA hosted a holiday card signing at the Los Angeles American Red Cross headquarters.  Every holiday season, the Red Cross hosts “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program where they organize volunteers to share their seasonal joy through greetings for veterans, military families and active duty service members at hospitals and installations around the world.

Penn volunteers received a special treat of their own, experiencing the Central Command room located at LA’s Red Cross facility.  The room is specifically designed to coordinate communications in case of a crisis, disaster, or other emergency.

Penn Alumni learn about Red Cross in LA's coveted Central Command Room.

Penn Alumni learn about Red Cross in LA’s coveted Central Command Room.

This holiday card signing event set a Penn Serves attendance record drawing more than 70 participants – alumni, children and relatives.  Proudly displaying the red and blue, Penn Serves’ participants put their Quaker creativity to work and designed cards and shared messages with our nation’s veterans. Glue sticks, scissors, stickers and markers provided both young and old the opportunity to draw and create fanciful cards.  For those who were challenged by the arts and crafts, Penn Serves LA cards were available to share inspiring messages with the troops through the written word — wishing a happy and peaceful holiday season. The cards provide a welcome Penn Serves LA “touch of home” for our troops during the holiday season.

“Seeing our generous Penn alums and their families so involved in supporting our troops really put us in the holiday spirit.  Thanks to everyone for helping the American Red Cross make a difference and fulfill its mission,” shares Jeff Sakaguchi, WG’89.  Jeff has been actively involved with the Red Cross, serving as a board member and past Chairman of the Los Angeles Region.

“It is great to see the Penn Serves’ momentum grow with insightful events. We look forward to seeing new faces at future events,” said Denise Winner, W’83, co-founder of Penn Serves LA, who organized this event.

“I know how important these cards, these words, can be to these guys,” shares Mark Lipis, W’70, a military veteran and Wharton graduate.  “I definitely wanted to be here today.”

Hard at Work, volunteers create joy through art and words.

Hard at Work, volunteers create joy through art and words.

Penn Alumni, Parents and children enjoyed sharing holiday uplifting messages for our troops.

Penn Alumni, Parents and children enjoyed sharing holiday uplifting messages for our troops.

All alumni, Penn Families and their children are invited to the next event on Friday, December 13th for The Giving Spirit.  At that event, Penn Serves will be assisting The Giving Spirit, an organization serving the homeless of Los Angeles through programs like distributing survival kits, in a critical time-sensitive mission as their supplies arrive for the holidays. Click here to sign up for this very special holiday event.

If you want to hear about more past and future events, either visit our website, like us on Facebook, or ask to be put on our mailing list by emailing pennserves@gmail.com.

Read about our past events:

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

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Penn Serves LA: Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

Penn Serves LA, the community service initiative launched in 2012 by Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, Leanne Pyott Huebner, W’90 and Denise Winner, W’83, continues to offer events to bring Penn Alumni in Los Angeles together to serve.

On August 24th, a group of Penn Alumni and their children gathered for a day of environmental cleanup and nature restoration at the Canyon at Chadwick School on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The group learned about the local habitat, wildlife, conservation and environmental challenges impacting the community from the leading Southern California bird expert and past President of the Southern California Audubon Society.

The Penn Serves LA crew as we start the day.

The Penn Serves LA crew as we start the day.

We started our efforts by bringing cleared brush up the canyon to a holding area at the top of a steep hill. It was steep and sometimes difficult to grab the prickly branches, but we developed an assembly line and quickly moved a huge pile to the top of the hill. Then, we hiked into the canyon for shade, a water and watermelon break (thank you Denise!) while we learned about efforts to bring back the natural habitat of the canyon and rid it of invasive vegetation. After our break, we set out with shears, clippers and other gardening tools to clear back plants, bushes and trees from the trail. I tasted some of the wild lemonade berries – tart and sweet. The sun was hot, but many hands made quick work.

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You can see more photos of our work that day here.

Next up, Penn Serves helped at the L.A. Leadership Academy in the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles on September 28th. Our mission was to help move classroom supplies into the new school building and interact with some of the college bound students and their families. The school is a charter school that is devoted almost solely to serving children in poverty, 95% of its student body is on free and reduced lunch.

How many Penn alumni does it take to lift this heavy desk onto a dolly?

How many Penn alumni does it take to lift this heavy desk onto a dolly?

Three plus one (representing the College, Wharton and Engineering no less!).

Three plus one (representing the College, Wharton and Engineering no less!).

Although we initially thought we’d be painting, it turned out that the school scheduled our Saturday to be a move day, and we would be helping the students, their families and school staff move fifteen classrooms worth of furniture and supplies from the front building into the new middle school in the back. The Penn group, which included many former Penn Serves participants, quickly got to work moving desks, chairs, books and science supplies. Down a long hall, then a flight of stairs and through the old school, into the courtyard and into the new building – things that seemed light when we started became heavy pretty quickly. But everyone was in good spirits. We stopped for a lunch break, and the school principal gave a special shout out to our group as other than the families that were there, we were the only ones helping. In the course of moving things up and down the stairs, we learned that the school’s founder, Roger Lowenstein, was the college roommate (at the University of Michigan) of Wharton Professor Michael Useem! What a small world. After lunch, we got to work setting up the science classroom (and reminiscing about our own science classes as we unpacked lots of glass beakers).

Everyone in the school community helped with the move.

Everyone in the school community helped with the move.

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Here some of us take a lunch break (the others were still moving!).

You can see more photos of the day here and on the Penn Club of Los Angeles’ Facebook page.

If you live in Los Angeles, I encourage you to join us at an upcoming Penn Serves LA event – the service activities planned benefit a variety of non-profits in the area, and each service project is in a different part of the city. This provides an opportunity for alumni to join in a project that is of particular interest, or in a more convenient location, and also offers the opportunity to learn about the many organizations serving the Los Angeles community.

The next event is planned for Sunday, November 17. We’ll be writing letters to American troops at the Red Cross. For more information and to RSVP, visit the PennClubLA website.

About Penn Serves LA – Started in 2012, Penn Serves offers a way for direct community service for local Penn alumni and their children to serve Los Angeles’ most needy populations. We partner with established nonprofits and grassroots organizations for one-time volunteer opportunities. So far, we’ve served meals to the homeless, delivered food to low income families, planned activities with immigrant children, and so much more. Please contact us if you’d like to help at a future event: pennservesla@gmail.com.

Read about our past events:

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

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