Piling off yellow school buses, approximately 650 Southern Illinois University Edwardsville freshmen, armed with work gloves, water bottles and grit, swarmed into farms, parks and communities to provide more than 2,000 volunteer service hours as part of the SIUE Experience Service Day project on Saturday, Aug. 18.
“At SIUE, community service is one of the most important things we do,” SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook told the group of students in the Morris University Center Meridian Ballroom, before they left for two hours of hard work. “Last year this University, largely the students, donated 250,000 hours of community service.”
“I have been going to Costa Rica for about 14 years to do community service, and I have noticed that bonding occurs when you work with others,” continued Pembrook. “At the end of this experience today, you will feel like you have received more than you gave. I do hope today becomes a habit for you, and reaching out to the community will be something you think about doing beyond today.”
Also addressing the group of students was Sarah Laux, associate director in the Kimmel Student Involvement Center. “Today provides a great opportunity for students to discover the meaning of citizenship at SIUE,” said Laux, as the students made their way to the buses. “They’re putting their needs aside for a few hours to provide service to a great community.”
LaVista Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm in Godfrey was one of 10 work sites for the students.
At LaVista, approximately 250 freshmen fanned out to weed, paint and do other chores as needed. The community garden is located on five acres of property that belongs to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, according to Tom Bechtold, a garden core group member and SIUE alumnus.
LaVista sells shares to the public in Illinois and Missouri, and in return, people come weekly or biweekly from May-October to pick vegetables that range up to 50 various kinds, reported Bechtold, who received a bachelor’s in accounting from SIUE in 1968. The farmer for LaVista is Phill Beile of Alton, who plants, cultivates, harvests and sorts the vegetables.
“This is a good opportunity to meet some of the people you will be living and studying with while in college,” said Joe Wingbermuehl, of St. Charles, Mo., who was weeding along a portion of fencing. “I’ve done community service work for the last seven years, and I enjoy it.”
“It’s super important to volunteer,” said Makenzie Bellaver, of Hillsboro. “When you do things for others is when you experience true happiness.”
“When I’m done, I will be exhausted,” said Jilberto Domingueaz, who was bent down pulling weeds from rows of eggplants. “But I will feel better mentally, because I helped out.”
“I’m passionate about giving back to the community. I believe in living a service-filled life,” said Precious Johnson, of St. Louis. “Being at a school that cares about it, too, is important to me.”
“It’s a nice day out, and I’m enjoying the work,” said Mary Cole, of Chatham, who helped paint farm equipment. “They can’t do all this work by themselves. It would take them forever.”
The other work sites that freshmen volunteered at included:
- Arlington Wetlands, Pontoon Beach, IL
- Community Hope Center, Cottage Hills, IL
- Discovery Garden, Godfrey, IL
- EarthDance Farms, Ferguson, MO
- The Gardens at SIUE, Edwardsville, IL
- Granite City Community Gardens, Granite City, IL
- Metro East Humane Society, Edwardsville, IL
- Watershed Nature Center, Edwardsville, IL
- Willoughby Farm, Collinsville, IL
SIUE freshmen attack their weeding assignment with gusto at LaVista CSA Farm.
SIUE students painted farm equipment at LaVista Farm.
SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook (fifth from the right) and approximately 650 freshmen enjoyed providing community service at LaVista Farm.