As the Apostle Paul called for everyone to serve one another through love, Saint Leo University students, faculty, and staff are meeting that call to action and incorporating the university’s core value of “community” by creating a sense of unity while serving others.

On Saturday, March 5, more than 200 volunteers from the Saint Leo University community gathered for the Spring Fling Morning of Service. Volunteers joined with University Ministry and Cross Catholic Outreach to package more than 40,000 meals in the Glen E. Greenfelder-Janet L. Denlinger Boardrooms in the Student Community Center at University Campus. The packaged meals will be sent to different locations around the world to help aid victims of hunger and natural disasters.

The service project was an excellent way for Saint Leo community members to kick off the season of Lent, to practice the Saint Leo core value of community, and to follow Christ’s admonition, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

The Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences (SERVE) project also was an opportunity for friendly competition, as Father Randall Meissen, university chaplain, offered a challenge to all of the student clubs and organizations on campus: The club or organization that had the most participants register to volunteer would be honored with the Chaplain’s Challenge Award and would get to choose a color to dye Meissen’s beard for a day.

The competition was close—the men's soccer team emerged triumphant as the group with the most volunteer participants, and Meissen’s beard was dyed a bright green in the team’s honor.

Saint Leo students volunteering

“In conversation with students, we selected this event in order to promote service among a large cross section of the campus population,” Meissen said of the Spring Fling Morning of Service. “The experience of preparing a meal packet with your own hands and knowing that someone in great need will receive it, brings home the reality that we all are connected in a global family.”

This event also fit the goal of making a big impact for the some of the poorest of the poor without needing to travel far from campus, a point of particular importance given that most of the organization for the event took place amid the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in the year, Meissen said.

Taking Care of the Planet

During Spring Break, students volunteered through the Office of Community Service for a beach cleanup. On March 15, 14 volunteers traveled to St. Petersburg, FL, for a service-learning day trip with Keep Pinellas Beautiful.

A Saint Leo student cleaning up the beach

“We learned about the effects of plastic pollution and how to create a safer environment,” said Brandee Greaves, director of the Office of Community Service. “After serving, we enjoyed scenic views at the Weedon Island Preserve.”

Alternative Spring Break

University Ministry also completed a service project during Spring Break, March 13-19. Students traveled to Life Teen’s Camp Hidden in Dahlonega, GA, to help with demolition, construction, and remodeling projects on the camp’s ground. The camp is “home” to thousands of teenagers each year, as they come to be formed in their faith. 

As a Eucharist-centered movement within the Catholic Church, Life Teen leads teenagers, young adults, and their families into a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church.

Saint Leo students volunteering

Alora Peters contributed to this report. She is a senior, majoring in English-professional writing and the editor-in-chief of The Lions' Pride Media Group. She also is a member of the University Ministry team.