Jennifer Herman applied white paint to the steps leading up to the Aquarium of Niagara's entrance while Myriam Witkowski heaved 40-pound packages of vegetables onto a truck bound for a Niagara Falls food pantry.
Niagara University's director of instructional support and the assistant dean of its College of Business Administration were joined by more than 100 fellow employees in tackling community service projects throughout Western New York on June 9.
It was all part of the university's Day of Service, an annual tradition for faculty and staff in reflection of NU's Vincentian heritage. Every year, university employees dedicate a summer morning to assisting local nonprofit organizations with tasks such as painting, gardening, cleaning and distributing food.
"It's our mission; it's part of our culture," said Witkowski, who was stationed at the Niagara Community Action Program, where she and four colleagues loaded food onto vehicles for transportation to area food pantries and soup kitchens. "We are involved in other ways on our own, serving on nonprofit boards or getting students involved, but this is the one visible day that heightens awareness."
Participating employees assembled at Clet Dining Hall on Niagara University's campus at 8:30 a.m. where they were treated to coffee and tea before dispersing throughout the region to lend helping hands to organizations with lesser human and capital resources. The participants returned to campus at 1:45 p.m. for an appreciation luncheon.
"I have always enjoyed volunteer work and Niagara's Day of Service allows me to serve and to get to know the Niagara Falls community better," added Herman, a four-time Day of Service participant. "I also love the opportunity to get to know other NU employees who I don't see on a daily basis; each year, I try to choose a service site that allows me to work with at least one other NU colleague who I don't know very well."
Over the course of about four hours, NU crews serviced 21 charitable institutions, including the Aquarium of Niagara, Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, the Food Bank of WNY, Girl Scouts of Niagara County, Heart Love & Soul Food Pantry, The Magdalene Project, the Niagara Community Action Program, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, ReNU Niagara, the Salvation Army and the SPCA of Erie County.
"It is very important that our staff and faculty, as leaders of a Vincentian and Catholic university, model an aptitude for performing service in the community," said Antonia Knight, director of Niagara University's Office of Career, Academic & Service Experience, which oversees NU's award-winning Learn & Serve program. "Plus, our employees truly enjoy getting out into the community and making a difference, and this gives them a chance to do that in an impactful way."
To read more about Niagara University's commitment to community service, visit www.niagara.edu/servicelearning.