As two classes of new students settle into campus for the first time this fall, UCLA’s annual Volunteer Day marks an important return to the community.

Whether fanning out across Los Angeles, remaining in Westwood, or taking part in activities in cities outside of California and worldwide, Bruins will participate in more than 40 volunteer projects on Saturday, Sept. 25.

While the day of service typically introduces new students to Los Angeles (as well as bringing out returning students, employees and alumni), in 2020 the pandemic forced Volunteer Day to happen primarily over Zoom with teach-ins about safe protesting or online open houses with UCLA’s community organization partners.

This year’s community service projects include gardening, meal packing, putting together menstrual hygiene kits, face painting, school beautification projects, environmental cleanups and outreach to people who are unhoused.

“It feels amazing knowing that we’ll be back in the community that we love so much,” said Josh O’Connor, the associate director of leadership and involvement for the UCLA Volunteer Center.

“Volunteer Day is the university’s largest community service event, and has become a cornerstone of the UCLA experience that often inspires, or reignites, a love for volunteering that can continue year-round.”

UCLA alumni groups in Los Angeles, other cities in California including San Diego and Sacramento, and locations as far away as Japan and China have organized community service projects to participate in the ongoing tradition.

In alignment with University of California policy, all UCLA students and employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus. To further promote safety, volunteer site leaders will have kits with extra masks and disinfecting wipes, and all volunteers will follow COVID protocols before volunteering. All of the hundreds of volunteers will wear masks on Saturday morning as they board the more than dozen buses to locations around Los Angeles, from the Westside Food Bank to PS Science in Inglewood.

Throughout Volunteer Day’s 13 years, Bruins have contributed more than 321,644 service hours, at an estimated value of more than $8.2 million dollars.

For Ana Majer, the internal programs director of the student-run community service commission and a Volunteer Day organizer, the excitement is building as her first in-person project in 18 months approaches. The third-year student is eagerly hoping to spend her first full year on campus after the pandemic.

“I’m very excited to see Volunteer Day in person,” said Majer, adding that she looks forward to helping newer students make their first connections with campus and the community. “When I moved to a new place in high school, volunteering really helped me connect with people, and it was the same when I came to UCLA. I connect best through service.”