On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 19, a group of California Lutheran University students went to Ventura Beach to participate in Interfaith Service Day’s beach clean-up.
The event was led by Melissa Dennin, a sophomore and Community Service Center intern. Dennin said she was inspired by Eboo Patel’s book “Acts of Faith”.
“[Patel] talked about how service brings people of different backgrounds together,” Dennin said. “And I was like, that would be really cool if we could have an event where people of different faiths could come together, bond over the act of service they just completed and then talk in a discussion and realize there’s more connecting us rather than separating us.”
The event consisted of two parts: two community service projects and a reflection afterward.
Students met at the Samuelson Chapel for breakfast and to pick up sack lunches before hopping aboard a yellow school bus that took them to Ventura.
At the beach, they divided into groups and spread out to pick up trash. After regrouping, they sorted through their findings to create piles of recyclables and non-recyclables.
The group picked up scraps of paper, plastics and old beach towels. They also found Styrofoam, unopened bottles, sandals and even a pair of denim shorts, Dennin said.
After the clean up, Dennin led participants in making dog toys for Shelter Hope Pet Shop, an organization located in Janss Marketplace. The students braided felt pieces to create toys for small, medium and large dogs.
“I tried to think of [another service project] that wouldn’t create as much waste considering we just cleaned up the beach,” Dennin said. “I reached out to [Shelter Hope Pet Shop] and one of their volunteer opportunities that you can do where you don’t have to go to them is make dog toys. And so I figured, every dog needs a toy.”
After the service projects were done, students gathered on beach blankets and ate their sack lunches while participating in reflection.
Campus Minister Hazel Salazar-Davidson was asked by Dennin and Community Service Coordinator Madeline Liberti to help put together the service day and prepare a reflective aspect for the event.
Salazar-Davidson said she agreed to help at this event since it was more active versus other interfaith events which tend to be more “headsy.”
She led them in Lectio Divina, a Christian tradition of reading scripture and meditating. For this event, Salazar-Davidson said she chose passages from Muslim texts, Midrash texts and Secular humanist texts.
Each piece had a different reflective aspect, whether it was quiet meditation or sharing thoughts that came to mind.
“This is a way to introduce people kind of across campus,” Salazar-Davidson said. “Really I just want them to have connections with each other.”
Sophomore Kaila Overdevest was one of the students who participated.
“To me interfaith just means you’re participating in something to help better your community and better those around you, while also sticking true to your values,” Overdevest said.
Liberti helped oversee the event, and said the overarching goal of interfaith programs is to bring all different religious and nonreligious backgrounds together.
“The idea of interfaith is people of all faiths and nonfaiths coming together through their shared values, maybe shared experiences, but also appreciating all the differences we have, maybe its different religions or where we come from,” Liberti said.