Dr. Tim Downs, Niagara University's chief academic officer, cleared brush behind Carolyn's House, a refuge for the homeless in downtown Niagara Falls. At the Heart and Soul Food Pantry on Ontario Street, Nicole Piorkowski, NU's assistant dean of students, distributed gently used clothing to those less fortunate. Meanwhile, Chris Sheffield interrupted his job as university planner - for a few hours, at least - to paint restrooms at the Niagara Children's Education Treatment Center.
The trio was joined by more than 120 fellow NU employees in tackling community service projects throughout Western New York on Thursday. 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.
"This is an event that our staff and faculty always take great pride in," said Fran Boltz, director of NU's nationally recognized Learn and Serve program and whose office organizes the annual affair. "Throughout the school year, we are constantly working with students to instill in them the value of community service and this gives us an opportunity to practice what we preach."
Participating employees assembled in Niagara University's student union at 8:30 a.m., where they were treated to coffee and tea before dispersing throughout the region to assist organizations with lesser human and capital resources. The participants returned to campus at 1:30 p.m. for an appreciation luncheon.
"As a relatively new member of the university, it's encouraging to work next to so many people who believe in our Vincentian mission," said Downs, who became Niagara's vice president for academic affairs last June. "I hope that this will be my first of many Niagara University Days of Service."
Over the course of five hours, NU crews serviced 22 charitable institutions, including the Aquarium of Niagara, Canine Helpers for the Handicapped, Carolyn's House, the Dale Association, the Food Bank of WNY, the Francis Center, the Girl Scouts of Niagara County, Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry, The Magdalene Project, the Niagara Children's Education Treatment Center, the Niagara Community Action Program, the Niagara County Legal Aid Society, the Niagara Falls Family YMCA, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Niagara Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Niagara Street School, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, the Ransomville Free Library, ReNU Niagara, the Schoellkopf Health Center , the SPCA of Erie County and the St. Vincent de Paul Society Thrift Store.
To read more about Niagara University's commitment to community service, visit http://www.niagara.edu/servicelearning.