"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

During October, Saint Leo University has made it its mission to gather the community to give back and be there for those in need. Saint Leo's education centers and online community throughout the nation contributed to this fulfilling mission through Saint Leo Serves.

The university's core values distinguish it. Saint Leo reinforces excellence, community, respect, personal development, responsible stewardship, and integrity. That is why the Saint Leo community made making a difference its priority this month. Here's a glimpse at the contributions that the Saint Leo community made to help others.        

On National Make a Difference Day, October 27, Saint Leo University offered on- and off- campus projects for students, faculty, and staff, as well as their families. Lions from University Campus volunteered in activities benefiting various nonprofit organizations and agencies.

 The volunteers helped Feeding Children Everywhere, an organization that provides healthy food for children in need. Wearing hairnets and forming assembly lines, they scooped and poured lentils, white rice, dehydrated vegetables, and pink Himalayan salt to form jambalaya mixes, which were then boxed for distribution.

Saint Leo's Paws of Love nonprofit organization, which supports sheltered, rescued, and service animals, received a boost on Saturday as volunteers created cat toys and cat trees. Some of the items will be donated to Pasco County Animal Services while others will be sold by Paws of Love to raise funds to purchase lasso leashes for the agency's shelter. 

In addition, Saint Leo assisted Meals on Wheels by decorating paper bags for the organization's holiday deliveries to help eradicate hunger. Volunteers also worked on the Peaceful Reflections Garden outside of Saint Edward Hall, which was created by Dr. Veronika Ospina-Kammerer, professor of social work.

Volunteers headed off-campus to assist Pasco County Animal Services in Land O' Lakes; Habitat for Humanity in Dade City; the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City; and Holy Name Monastery in St. Leo.

Lions United to Serve

Fellow Lions throughout the United States also showed their love and performed acts of kindness for National Make a Difference Day.

Saint Leo's Jacksonville Education Center (FL) made kindness rocks as a way to support care and giving. Volunteers painted thoughtful messages on rocks—expressions of gratitude, affirmation, and encouragement. On October 25, they visited Fleming Island Elementary during recess and provided rocks and supplies for the elementary students to create their own kindness rocks to place at the school or to take home to place at their favorite park.   

The Gainesville Education Center (FL) also invited everyone to stop by the center and paint words of affirmations on rocks. Then on National Make a Difference Day, volunteers spread the rocks throughout the community, sharing goodwill.

Saint Leo's Ocala Education Center gathered staff volunteers and worked with students at the PACE Center for Girls-Marion, which offers academics and social services for middle- and high-school aged girls. The volunteers spent time with the girls and helped bake and decorate cookies.

Volunteers from the Tampa and MacDill education centers (FL) took the day to assist MacDill Air Force Base with the rehabilitation of a training room as well as the grounds outside of the center.  "We cleaned and repainted a training room that was in desperate need of some TLC," said Rod Kirkwood, director. "In addition, we painted some benches outside of the building and added some fresh flowers to the flower pots outside; the flowers are in Saint Leo colors of course!"

Lakeland Education Center (FL) volunteers participated in a clean-up project, assisting the North Lakeland Kiwanis Club for Kiwanis One Day. They worked at the North Lakeland Kiwanis Club Pavilion at Hunt Fountain Park.

Helping youngsters was the goal of volunteers from the Lake City Education Center (FL). Representatives volunteered at Five Points Elementary and Westside Elementary, helping students with their letters, art projects, reading, and more. Assistant academic advisor Maelyn Babinec also was sworn in as a guardian ad litem and attended her first court date as a volunteer case manager.

In Georgia, the Savannah Education Center (GA) collected personal hygiene items for the Salvation Army homeless shelter. Volunteers created bags for shelter residents and dropped off the items, then proceeded to serve breakfast at the shelter. The Marietta Education Center (GA) partnered with the Cobb County Sheriff's Office to collect nonperishable food items at the center and the county administration building. The food was donated to Feed Thee Inc.

Saint Leo's Gwinnett Education Center (GA) assisted the Center for Pan Asian Community Service (CPACS) in Duluth. CPACS recently partnered with Saint Leo to offer a tuition discount to employees. CPACS assists Asian-American women, children, and low income families. Gwinnett volunteers took the opportunity to call on people in the community and encourage them to exercise their voting rights on November 6.

Saint Leo's Virginia locations were busy making a difference, too.

The South Hampton Roads Education Center (VA) participated in the Out-of-the-Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk in Virginia Beach on October 21. The Virginia Region Human Services Club (HUS) volunteered at the walk and were supported by faculty advisors Dr. Amina Abdullah, department chair of undergraduate human services, and Dr. Michelle Boone-Thornton, assistant professor of human services at the Chesapeake Education Center. Dr. Craig Winstead, associate professor of project management, was there to lend a hand and cheer on walkers, as well. The walk also raised money for the American Federation for Suicide Prevention.

Saint Leo's Chesapeake Education Center (VA) also is lending a helping hand. This year, on November 3, and November 4, the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics of Virginia (SOVA) will take place in Virginia Beach, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Saint Leo's Richard Crothers, an academic advisor, testing administrator, and invigilator for the Chesapeake center, will be serving his 20th year as the director and volunteer coordinator at the bowling competition. He will be joined by a team that will help about 1,000 Special Olympics athletes from across Virginia.

The Virginia peninsula centers (Fort Eustis, Langley Air Force Base, and Newport News) served at the Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Newport News, VA. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is one of the charity's improvement stores and donation centers and sells new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price. 

The Ronald McDonald House Charities benefited from the activities of two Saint Leo education centers. The Corpus Christi Education Center (TX) collected items and $110 in cash for the Ronald McDonald House in Corpus Christi. Faculty, staff, and students from the Morrow Education Center (GA) also collected items for the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities. The charity provides a place for families of seriously ill children to call home while their child is hospitalized.

And in California, as its Saint Leo Serves project, the San Diego Education Center volunteers participated in Oktoberfest Cleanup with I Love A Clean San Diego. 

Across the United States, Saint Leo University gave back, truly serving its many communities. Saint Leo made a difference by uniting to serve others. #SaintLeoServes

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)


 Sarah El Naamani is a sophomore majoring in English literature and a student-worker in University Communications. Mary McCoy, university writer & media relations, contributed to this story.