The crowd was buzzing with energy and excitement Oct. 23, as more than 2,700 students, faculty and staff gathered at Robert Herrmann Stadium for SLU's 2010 Make a Difference Day.
Following a rallying speech by SLU alumnus and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and a time of reflection, the volunteers headed out to more than 120 local service sites that included schools, churches and community organizations. The volunteer ranks included many international students as well as parents of local SLU students.
From painting to gardening to home building, schools took on a fresh look, community gardens were tended and Habitat for Humanity got a welcome hand.
For Tyler Vachio, a sophomore majoring in accounting, it was an opportunity he couldn't wait to be part of. Co-chair of the John Cook School of Business service leadership program, Vachio was unable to participate last year and couldn't wait to get involved this year.
Vachio was part of a group that spent the day prepping and painting a rusting, damaged fence that surrounds the school property. It was rewarding work.
"We worked with the principal and several faculty members who wanted to get the project done but didn't think it was possible," Vacchio said. "It was great to make a difference for that school and that community."
The annual day of service - one of the largest of its kind in the country - is helping meet some important needs during challenging economic times.
Bobby Wassel, manager of SLU's Center for Service and Community Engagement, said non-profit groups often take a major hit during economic downturns.
"When the number of those in need turning to these groups for assistance is on the rise, the number of donations is decreasing making resources scarce," Wassel said.
But the boost schools, churches and community groups get from volunteers serving those around them goes far beyond money.
"The combined efforts and energetic enthusiasm of those who donate their time and talents can make a difference for these organizations and the people they serve all year," Wassel added.
And SLU's participation wasn't limited to St. Louis. Hundreds of SLU alumni in cities across the country took part in their local Make a Difference Day programs.