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More than 400 volunteers attend Make A Difference Day

Photo courtesy of Student Support Services

More than 400 volunteers from FGCU and Wells Fargo partnered together for Make A Difference Day on Oct. 22.

Volunteers helped 13 different nonprofit organizations, including the Salvation Army, Harry Chapin Food Bank, Valerie’s House, FGCU’s Food Forest and many more.

“Participating in M.A.D.D. is a great way to get involved in the community and do a little good,” said FGCU student, Loygdna Laurissa.

Dominique Gilbert (left) and Laurissant (right) are working under a tent during the M.A.D.D. event. They both partnered together to help the Salvation Army. (EN Photo / Romina Combe)

Each volunteer was able to do different task for different organizations.

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“We raked leaves. We planted hibiscus. We picked up trash, and some of the people played with the children while their parents were signing up for the Christmas program,” said Dolores Kiesler, Assistant Dean of TRiO and Outreach Programs.

“I think it’s important whenever we can give service to the community by helping them do something they don’t have time to do because they’re so busy working with the people that are in need,” Kiesler said. “I enjoyed it and I think most of the people here enjoyed it.”

“It’s great for SSS to get together and really make a difference. Go out there and give back to the community and work together as a group to do something for a great cause. It was great to have all you guys come out and celebrate this with us,” said Lisa Neris, Program Coordinator for Classic Program in Student Support Services.

Some students participated in groups, which gave them a chance to collectively do service.

“I volunteered with Student Support Services,” said FGCU student James Gaitor. “We went to the Salvation Army and we were able to help them with getting the gardening situation straightened out. We planted some trees, cleaned up along the sides of the street, and things along those lines.”

(EN Photo / Romina Combe)

“It was just a good time being able to come out with fellow students and being able to meet with the people of the Salvation Army.”

One of the most notable parts of the service event was seeing how touched many of the students were by the work they did and the people they helped.

“We went to Cypress Cove and made flower bouquets, and then we passed them out to the elderly. It really brightened up their day and they were really happy we came,” said Anna Sharamachevskiy about her experience with Maria Gallo during their time volunteering at a retirement home.

“And it was some of their birthdays so they really felt like someone remembered, cared, and loved them,” Gallo said.

Not only were volunteers able to make a positive change in their communities, they were also able to do things that they really loved through their service.

William Lee said that he went to the Vester Field Station and canoed around the mangroves where he picked up trash.

“I’m going to try to go there every year because it was awesome,” Lee said. “I enjoy nature a lot and I’m a science major, so I get to go do something that I love and be out in nature helping the community,”

“People who are considering participating in the future should definitely do it. They have a lot of different options of what you can do so pick something that you’re interested in, pick something that you’ve never considered, and have an adventure,” Lee said.

Aside from having fun and helping out the community, some students were able to network.

FGCU student, Emily Collier, talked about her experience and how service can be a great help not only to the organizations, but to the students themselves.

EN Photo / Romina Combe

“We helped out at Valerie’s House where we helped them beautify their new location. They were originally in Fort Myers, but they got the opportunity to get a free house in Naples,” Collier said. “So, we laid down mulch, pulled weeds out, and lay out flowers for planting.”

“The founder of Valerie’s house was there and I was able to connect with her to do future volunteer opportunities,” Collier said. “The great thing about M.A.D.D. is it doesn’t just start with one day, it continues to be a future thing. “

“We actually met with an FGCU graduate from social work and she was telling us how it was her dream job,” Collier said. “It can come true. So I think that it’s important to network and give a little boost to college students.”

Overall, M.A.D.D. continues to be a success, proving just how rewarding it can be to dedicate a day to service.

“In any case, it’s awesome to be able to work as a group. There’s a connectedness and a shared experience of giving, that, I think, makes all the difference in the world,” said Karyn Friedman- Everham.

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