Going green and Making a Difference

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Students are preparing for Make A Difference Day this Saturday after Saint Louis University broke its participation record with 3,000 volunteers last year.

Proving to be one of SLU’s most anticipated events of the year, MADD has annually attracted a variety of volunteers. Students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni are all invited to gather together on Oct. 27 to celebrate the school year’s largest day of service.

As the years have gone by, this SLU tradition has only improved with age, growing and advancing every year.

Jessica Smith, a returning volunteer and member of Alpha Phi Omega, SLU’s service fraternity, encourages all students to volunteer for at least this one day.

“I worked with the public health group my first year,” Smith said. “We went to this nursing home in the section for men and women with dementia. I teamed up with a lady named Miss Dolly. We started carving pumpkins and making decorations, and she lit up! She even began talking about her dog and laughing! Later, they supplied us with lunch, and our coordinator walked in saying Miss Dolly has not smiled in five years, and we were the first to get her to smile!”

Another previous volunteer, Corinne Halsted, says there is more to service than people think.

“The day, in general, is a great reflection on SLU’s mission for the development of men and women for others,” Halsted said. “It creates this perfect balance of doing something new and helping others all at the same time.”

Senior Shannon Russell, president of APO, has been involved with the organization for the last three years. She feels it only becomes easier to find her way back to MADD every year.

“It’s a unifying experience, not just for APO, but for the entire SLU campus,” Russell said.

Russell and the rest of the APO executive board collaborate each week to create the ads and banners hung throughout campus and to prepare for the event.

“The day itself reflects SLU’s mission [and] its students’ interest[s] in social justice and helping their community,” Russell said. “The whole goal of this day is to have the biggest impact by reaching out to more areas of community. ”

The number of SLU volunteers that participate in MADD has grown extensively over the last decade. The Center for Service and Community Engagement co-sponsors the event.

Robert Wassel, Assistant Director for Community Service and Outreach, said he has been personally involved with the program for seven years.

“My first year, there were 1,400 volunteers, and now we have 3,000,” Wassel said. “This has added to the national profile for SLU as a service school, one of the largest in the nation.”

For most students, numbers and statistics are not what draws them to volunteer.

“I really believe our students are passionate.,” Wassel said. “There is a culture of service on SLU’s campus. It’s in our Billiken DNA.”

APO is also partnering with SLU’s Center for Sustainability to put together this year’s theme, “Sustainability.” With this new theme comes new changes and features.

Groups of volunteers will be working at 25 different public schools, which is an upgrade from the previous 15.

Outside of the classrooms, 20 sites and 1,000 volunteers will be focused solely on environmental sustainability. These sites include community gardens, where volunteers will prepare an area where vegetables and fruits can be grown.

“Many people don’t have access to fresh produce without taking six to seven bus routes,” commented Wassel.

Another group will be working to revitalize Greenwood Cemetery. Unkept and overgrown, the cemetery is a historical landmark in St. Louis, holding the graves of Dred Scott’s family. Volunteers will pull weeds and work to support the cemetery’s environmental sustainability.

Continuing with the theme, lunches will be served in biodegradable bags provided by Chartwell’s. Instead of T-shirts, re-usable water bottles will be handed out to all registered volunteers to refill throughout the day and keep hydrated.

The MADD opening ceremony will be held at Robert Hermann Soccer Stadium at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 27th.