The Saint Leo University community united far and wide on Veterans Day to perform volunteer acts in honor of those who served in the U.S. military. This year, the university's annual community service day was moved to Veterans Day. And while there were no classes, there were plenty of opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to volunteer.

Veterans Day of Service helps recognize the sacrifices military personnel and their families make, often spending holidays in faraway lands and away from family gatherings. The Saint Leo community performed acts of service as a way to honor veterans. While there were some volunteer opportunities organized by the university, employees could work with the organization or agency of their choice.

From cleaning a 1-mile stretch of a downtown Tampa, FL, street to feeding the homeless in a park in Savannah, GA, from making toys and treats at University Campus for rescue animals, to sorting items at for a Habitat for Humanity store in Newport News, VA, Saint Leo University students, faculty, and staff assisted others in their communities.

As he helped in the Peaceful Reflections Garden on the south side of Saint Edward Hall at University Campus, Iman Johnson said, "I felt compelled to volunteer on Veterans Day. My grandfather served." Johnson is a graduate assistant for the men's basketball team.

Dr. Veronika Ospina-Kammerer (Dr. VOK), professor of social work, leads the garden project each year. Social Work Club members Shakirah Anderson and Erin Whiteley volunteer to help "Dr. VOK and see the garden," they said.

"I want to give back and grow the community, since I'm a senior," said Delaney Chrisco, women's lacrosse player. "We want to leave on a good note. We also run by this area, and I know this little spot."

Also at University Campus, volunteers gathered to help the Paws of Love nonprofit organization make dog treats and toys. Treats—made of oats, honey, and peanut butter—will be donated to the Pasco County Animal Services shelter as will toys made of recycled T-shirts and other materials. "This year, we're focusing on serving and giving away what we make," said organizer Heidi D'Ambrosio, executive assistant to Vice President of Student Affairs Jen Shaw. Cat trees that student-volunteers create will be donated to the shelter so that when someone adopts a cat or kitten, they will receive a cat tree/scratching post to the take home, D'Ambrosio said. 

University Campus participants worked with community partners such as San Antonio Elementary School in San Antonio; A Helping Rock, a homeless shelter in Zephyrhills; Gulfside Hospice Thrift Shoppe in Dade City; Pioneer Florida Museum and Village in Dade City; Rodney B. Cox Elementary in Dade City; Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Shady Hills; and more.

Saint Leo Serves Across America

Saint Leo WorldWide participated in a variety of activities on Veterans Day. The Tampa and Lakeland education centers and MacDill Education Office partnered with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful to clean a mile stretch of Twiggs Street from Channelside to Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa. Participants included Rod Kirkwood, Courtney Wethington, Luis Reyna, Manyel Richardson, Tiffany Anderson, Nancy Vega, and Yoceline Rincon.

The Gainesville Education Center and the Ocala Education Center represented Saint Leo University at veterans' events at Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park and the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park, respectively.

In Newport News, VA, Dr. Michael Godfrey, Virginia Peninsula area director, and Fort Eustis Education Center faculty and staff members Frances Volking, Doris McRae, and Blanche [Cookie] Allen provided support to Habitat for Humanity's Restore.

"We helped stock shelves break down boxes, re-organize and clean shelves, and vacuum donated carpets," Godfrey said.

The Newport News Education Center also hosted guests from other businesses in the center's building as well as students, faculty, and staff at a Veterans Day ceremony on November 8.

Savannah Education Center representatives participated in the city's Veterans Day parade on November 9, and as a service project, set up a table in Forsyth Park to distribute care packages and food to homeless veterans.

The Gwinnett Education Center's volunteers spent time on Veterans Day at Delmar Gardens of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, GA, which serves residents with dementia. Saint Leo volunteers worked on arts and crafts, read, sang, played games, and walked with residents.

The Saint Leo University Atlanta Education Center supported the Ronald McDonald House of Atlanta on Veterans Day. 

"We're thankful to have been able to provide food, cleaning supplies, and household goods for the patrons and residents of the Ronald McDonald House Charities," said NaTanya Dowell, associate director. "The Atlanta Center staff is proud to support the RMHC where their mission and vision is to think globally, act locally to provide resources for sick children and their families."

In South Carolina, faculty, staff, and students from the Shaw Education Center and Sumter Education Office Sumter Education Office participated in the Sumter County Veterans Association event on November 11, which included a parade, ceremony, and celebration.

And on the other coast, Saint Leo's San Diego Education Center took time out on Veterans Day to clean Pacific Beach as an act of community service.

Saint Leo University community members lived the university's core values by giving back to others on Veterans Day and look forward to performing more volunteer work.