Reaching out to those in need

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It started out as an accident.

Kayla Cornell thought she was attending an event for the Colleges Against Cancer her freshman year. When she got in a car with her roommate, who had attended the meeting with her, they realized they were at the wrong CAC event. They had arrived at the Community Action Corps meeting.

Cornell, now a senior anthropology major, ended up at a mosque in Getzville. She spent the day decorating the mosque and serving food at a benefit for the Pakistan flood in 2010. That night, they raised $90,000 for the victims.

She was hooked on helping others.

The Community Action Corps (CAC) is a student-run community service organization on campus. Members of CAC dedicate themselves to enriching and enhancing the education of UB students through active involvement in volunteer and community service activities both on and off campus. CAC prides itself for being a hands-on club.

"I believe in allowing the members of the club to let their passions be seen in the community," said Cornell, the president of CAC. "If I have a member dedicated to creating a greener tomorrow, we create an event for that. Same thing for a member who has a passion for cancer research. Community service is boring and menial unless you have a passion and strive to make the world a better place. I really push the UB students to find that passion between themselves and their community."

CAC is extremely active in the Buffalo community, both on campus and in the surrounding area, according to Cornell. The club likes to work in the area because it helps connect students to the causes of their choice. Still, some members do not cater their services to a specific set of people in a certain area.

CAC helps whatever needs to be helped, Cornell said.

CAC was first founded in the '60s and membership was considered a prestigious honor. Members received course credit for being involved. Today, membership is strictly on a volunteer basis, and those involved participate because they want to change lives in their community.

Cornell is personally driven to volunteer for Planned Parenthood.

"When people hear about them, they immediately think abortion," Cornell said. "However, that is less than 5 percent of their services. I love how passionate they are about keeping the community safe from STIs, as well as educating them about sexuality and safe sex along the way."

CAC also focuses on the homelessness and housing situation in the area.

The club works with Compass House, which provides housing for runaway and homeless adolescents; Ronald McDonald House, a global organization that provides housing for children and their families undergoing medical treatment in Buffalo; and Porter House, another organization that aids the homeless. CAC members cook dinner for these individuals, families and others in need.

In the past, the club has been involved in Habitat for Humanity and other rebuilding causes in the Buffalo area.

CAC also works to bring cheer to hospitals through hosting Halloween and Easter parties for children at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and making Valentine's Day and Christmas cards for patients undergoing treatment there. The club also sponsors an on-campus American Red Cross blood drive, plants trees in Delaware Park and participates in numerous park and river clean-ups in the surrounding area.

Roswell Park is another organization Cornell feels passionate about.

"Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer," Cornell said. "It's a terrible disease and I'm happy to say that I know so many wonderful people who work tirelessly to cure it."

Cornell hopes to be a Generic Counselor at Roswell one day.

CAC does not focus its work locally all the time. The club is also involved in several international causes. Members work to raise awareness about the world water crisis - the lack of accessible clean water throughout the world - by participating in World Water Day. Additionally, the club holds a yearly benefit for the women of Nicaragua to promote their entrepreneurial endeavors.

CAC also participates in Student Association and UB-sponsored events like UB Gettin' Dirty, UB A Good Neighbor, Relay for Life, Saturdays of Service and the Linda Yalem Run.

The club fundraises in order to provide monetary donations to organizations they don't personally volunteer with.

Theresa Law, a biological sciences major and CAC treasurer, thinks it's important to help out a wide range of organizations.

"Any type of fundraising we do is always donated to an organization that we are unable to [physically] help," Law said in an email. "We are all about providing help to those that need it and those that are less privileged than us."

Law joined the club with a small group of her friends who were interested in doing community service. She said the small size of the club allowed its members to become tightly knit, which is one of the main reasons she remains in the club.

CAC, although small, constantly collaborates with other SA clubs on campus, including the Leadership Office. This year, the club is excited to be working with two fraternities on campus. Members are working with TKE on a benefit for St. Baldrick's Foundation, a childhood cancer charity, to be held at the end of March, and with APO to build a no-kill animal shelter.

CAC is also currently working to make blankets for refugee centers in the city of Buffalo and is developing BackPack programs, which will provide children with food in an effort to aid hunger-relief, in the Buffalo Public Schools.

"We are always looking to expand and increase awareness of our club," Cornell said. "We do great things for the community and beyond. There is always a spot for anyone with an interest to make a change or simply get involved."

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