More Than 500 Pounds of Donations Distributed to Local Organizations After Campus-Wide Toiletries Drive

On April 20, after the pounding applause that greeted George Takei’s introduction at Farmingdale State College (FSC) subsided, the Japanese-American actor best known for his role as Sulu in the original "Star Trek" series, opened with “Live long and prosper.” Then he began speaking and students, faculty and staff who packed the Campus Center Ballroom fell silent and listened.  

Takei, a renowned actor and social justice advocate, was the keynote speaker for FSC’s inaugural Day of Service held that day. His discussion concluded a three-week celebration of National Volunteer Month, that included a toiletry drive for five local organizations. In addition to the collection boxes around campus, the first 200 people to bring a donated item to Takei’s presentation received a copy of his graphic novel, “They Called Us Enemy.”  

In the giving spirit of the Day of Service, FSC also celebrated the unveiling of the Murray Pasternack, ’60, Lab for Radio Frequency and Microwave Technology, thanks to a generous $1.4 million gift from Murray Pasternack ‘60 and Judy Berkowitz. 

Yetunde A. Odugbesan-Omede PhD Acting Director for FSC’s Office of Community and Civic Engagement, called the day a success. “So many things were celebrated -- civic engagement, human rights, and social justice.” The campus-wide collection yielded 507 pounds of toiletry items, according to Odugbesan-Omede. Boxes were placed throughout campus for donations and the Functional Areas won the informal competition for the most donations. A team of 15 student volunteers worked on the drive and helped sort donations. Items were distributed based on the organizations' needs and provided to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, The Veterans Project at Long Island Cares, Bethany House, Island Harvest, ECLI-VIBES, and the FSC Food Pantry. 

"The purpose for creating the Inaugural Day of Service was to put community engagement and public service at the forefront," Odugbesan-Omede said. "It provided an opportunity, experience, and most importantly a commitment to be of service to the communities that we serve."  

Takei shared the moving story of his life as a Japanese-American following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Takei’s family was among more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent in California who had their property and bank accounts seized and were forced into internment camps where he spent nearly four years.  

Takei went on to a ground-breaking acting career that spanned more than 60 years, at a time when few roles were open to Asian-Americans. During the 1960s and onward, he participated in civil rights marches and demonstrations for LGBTQ+ rights. He has become one of the nation’s most vocal advocates for marriage equality and gay rights. 

He urged students to embrace advocacy and not be intimidated by the magnitude of the issues the world is facing now.  

“Start in the arena you occupy,” he said. “Take an issue you are passionate about and concentrate on that. Engage fully at a doable level. As you grow in life, grow in your involvement. Take a bite you can chew.”  

The audience also serenaded Takei with a spirited rendition of “Happy Birthday,” since he turned 86 on the day of his visit. 

It also was a day to reminisce and celebrate firsts. The inaugural Day of Service drew people from across campus. Next year’s event will be bigger and better, predicted Odugbesan-Omede. “If you want people to get involved, you have to provide the opportunity to get involved,” she said. FSC received a Carnegie Community Engagement Classification in 2020, which recognizes an institution’s commitment to community engagement. The College is committed to institutionalizing public service to make it a hallmark of an FSC education and maintaining the Carnegie Classification. 

“At Farmingdale State College, we strongly believe that service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges gaps, creates solutions, and moves us closer to a shared world that we can all be proud of,” said Dr. Odugbesan-Omede, “By sharing his [George Takei's] story of advocacy and breaking barriers, Mr. Takei demonstrated the profound impact of a life of service to our students and campus community.”  

Read the full story of George Takei’s discussion April 20.