Annual Friend Fest event celebrates volunteering at Carleton

Student volunteers and community members will gather on May 17 to commemorate a variety of community partner organizations.

Mileana Borowski ’25 16 May 2024 Posted In:
People sitting and standing around multiple tables on the Chapel lawn
Friend Fest 2023. Photo courtesy of Padmini Konidena ’25.Photo:

Friend Fest, an annual event hosted by Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE), celebrates the partnership between the CCCE and local community organizations Laura Baker, TOPSoccer, and Special Olympics. Bringing these various groups together through an afternoon of lawn games and food, this event creates a broader community of people united not by their specific organizations but by their love for volunteering. This year’s gathering, organized by CCCE fellow Padmini Konidena ’25, will be held on May 17 from 3:30–5 p.m. on the lawn in front of Burton Hall.

“It’s a good way to meet each other, because not everyone has met everyone else,” said Konidena.  

People sitting at a blue table on the Chapel lawn
Friend Fest 2023
Photo courtesy of Padmini Konidena ’25

Laura Baker is a disability services provider located a few blocks away from campus. Carleton students are paired with a Laura Baker resident based on shared interests — such as music, biking, or movies — and meet weekly to foster a relationship. The goal of this program is to aid those at Laura Baker in developing skills as well as helping them feel like a part of the community, while also offering an enriching experience for the volunteer.

“Students in the past have really enjoyed [volunteering for Laura Baker],” said Konidena. “One student mentioned how much it was a home away from home because they got to connect in a more familial rather than academic setting.” 

TOPSoccer, a community-based soccer program, helps children ages eight and older with physical and/or mental disabilities develop their soccer and social skills, focusing on player development rather than competition. Special Olympics also provides athletic competition and opportunities for those with developmental disabilities; some of the activities include singles bowling, track, and basketball.  

As a student leader, Konidena is tasked with getting food from the local co-op, borrowing lawn games from Carleton’s Office of Alumni Relations, reserving spaces, and sending out emails for marketing. 

Konidena is motivated to volunteer by the satisfaction of contributing to her community.

“I am drawn to the CCCE because of the community engagement aspect,” she said. “I like that these programs allow me to engage in the community in a way I couldn’t from an academic or just social perspective. The things I do through the CCCE are more valuable contributions to the community.”  

Volunteering is a great way to “get off campus and connect with people,” Konidena said, encouraging others to try it out and get involved. All of the volunteer events celebrated by Friend Fest are open to volunteers at any point in the year, and “you can even volunteer at Friend Fest, serving snow cones or calling out bingo numbers,” said Konidena.