3,118 Make the Biggest Difference

A record amount of volunteers participated in Make a Difference Day 2011 (Ryan Doan / Staff Photographer)

A record amount of volunteers participated in Make a Difference Day 2011 (Ryan Doan / Staff Photographer)

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When the fall season rolls around at Saint Louis University, three things can be expected: Homecoming, Halloween and helping others. On Oct. 28, a record 3,118 members of the SLU community dispersed to 130 service sites across the St. Louis area to serve others through the nationwide service initiative Make a Difference Day.

A record amount of volunteers participated in Make a Difference Day 2011 (Ryan Doan / Staff Photographer)

The attendance of 3,118 volunteers is a 340-person increase from SLU’s 2010 MADD.

The event is organized annually by the Center for Service and Community Engagement and co-sponsored by the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. According to Assistant Director for Community Service and Outreach Bobby Wassel, MADD acts as a means of encouraging students to serve others on a continuous basis.

“We want it to be a beginning and not an end,” Wassel said. “We want folks to walk away from MADD and say, ‘Gosh, I really had a good time at that school, I’m going to see if they need tutors once a week’, or ‘I really enjoyed working at this place and I’d like to become more involved with this organization on a regular basis.’”

APO President Perry Cole said that APO primarily organized the marketing for the event while the Center for Community Service and Outreach organized all of the service sites. According to Cole, APO spread out among various service sites located in St. Louis, East St. Louis and on SLU’s campus. Cole said that the most important part of MADD is its ability to bring the entire SLU community to serve. “In APO, all of us are doing service but Make a Difference Day gets the greater SLU community out into the St. Louis community,” Cole said. “I think it helps students have a greater understanding of the needs of our community.”

SLU Habitat for Humanity Chapter President Caroline Seroka said that 25 members of Habitat participated in MADD, restoring homes in Old North St. Louis and a rain garden at another location. “I absolutely loved it,” Seroka said. “We got to be outside and we were able to work with our hands and get dirty, but it was also really cool to learn about the rain garden as we were building it.”

Seroka said that the service opportunities at SLU influenced her decision to attend and that events such as MADD embody the Jesuit mission. “As a student, I came to this school because I wanted someplace that would educate me but also give me an opportunity to evolve into the person I wanted to be,” Seroka said. “That person is someone who is going to go out there and make a difference.”

Wassel said that participation from freshmen and faculty members was also at a record high this year. More than half of the class of 2015 volunteered at MADD. Wassel attributed the increase in participation as a whole this year to the character of the typical SLU student and the support from the student body and administration.

“We recruit that kind of student,” Wassel said. “It’s part of their lives, so I think a lot of it has to do with students that come here every year and are more and more interested and giving back.”

Wassel said the need for ongoing service from the SLU community is important. The Center for Community Service and Engagement works with more than 500 non-profit organizations and can assist students in finding a service site to fit particular needs and interests.

“There’s so many options out there,” Wassel said, “So it doesn’t matter what their schedule or interests are. We can find anything for someone to do at an ongoing basis.” Wassel said that one of the most important aspects of serving is the educational experience, which benefits both the student and the University. “Our students are learning something but they’re doing something for the community,” Wassel said.