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SXU Serves During Spring Break


Saint Xavier University (SXU) faculty, staff and students came together to serve Chicago during spring break. Led by Campus Ministry, the community participated in SXU Serves, a University series of local service trips. Volunteers lent their hands to Catholic Charities, Sundown Meadow, Chicago Canine Rescue and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

"Spring break is one of my favorite times to engage in volunteer opportunities because it brings staff and students together in service," said Deirdre Kleist, director of Campus Ministry. "It's a neat way for the SXU community to come together -- staff meet students who they might not otherwise encounter, students connect with people outside of their majors or friend groups, and partnerships are formed that otherwise might never have come together. Intentionally choosing sites all around the city and surrounding area also exposes participants to new neighborhoods and organizations they haven't encountered before."

Volunteers helped with food pantry organization and distribution, dog walking and ecosystem rehabilitation. At Sundown Meadow, the community spent time restoring natural prairies and woodland habitats that were disappearing due to invasive species. Being mindful of the Sisters of Mercy Critical Concern for the Earth, volunteers were able to contribute to forestland regeneration.

"Our trip to Sundown Meadow was a rewarding experience. Not only was I able to spend time with the SXU community, but I also contributed to helping out the local environment by removing invasive plant species. As a frequent visitor to forest preserves for hikes, I couldn't be happier to lend a hand," said Christopher Silbernagel, media content editor and writer for University Relations.

"I learned a number of things about forest rehabilitation, particularly when it comes to which plants are negatively impacting the forest environment, so I'm spreading the word to family and friends who love forests as much as I do. It was a really great experience, and I'm proud to carry on the SXU mission and core values in as many ways as I can," said Breeanna Villalpando, adjunct professor of the Language and Literature department.

At Chicago Canine Rescue, volunteers helped bring the organization's mission to life. By offering shelter support and walking dogs, the community helped homeless and vulnerable animals as well as learned more about the process of caring for them and finding them loving homes.

"I had the pleasure of attending the service trip at Chicago Canine Rescue. I was lucky enough to walk four dogs in my time there. Each dog had its own unique personality that made them so lovable, and even though I was only able to walk each dog for a half hour, I felt like I made their day a little brighter, and they made mine, too! I would volunteer my time again in a heartbeat. I'm grateful to Campus Ministry for providing us a wonderful and gratifying opportunity," said Lesley Podlasek, coordinator of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences (SONHS).

Volunteers assisted with food pantry organization and distribution at Catholic Charities and the Greater Chicago Food depository. Catholic Charities' mission is to provide services that strengthen and support those in need, and the Food Depository addresses the root causes of hunger to help the vulnerable overcome poverty. The community was proud to exercise the core values of service, hospitality, integrity, diversity and compassion in their efforts.

"I had a wonderful time on these trips," said Ximena Garcia, a nursing major. "At Catholic Charities, we helped people shop for groceries entirely free to them and helped them pack away their food. I was amazed at how personal the experience was. Each family was helped one at a time. Anyone who is looking to become more involved on campus and with fellow peers should take advantage of opportunities like this."

"In the short time we were able to spend together, we built community with one another, we practiced acting with compassion and we did our small part to work toward the common good. If it means even one family getting food from a pantry, one shelter dog being walked or one small area of habitat being restored, it is well worth our time and efforts," said Kleist. "My hope is that as students and staff get to know these different nonprofits doing great work, they are inspired to visit again on their own and encourage others to do the same."