By Carl Legg
Canisius College Community Day last Saturday, October 1 was a rousing success. 330 students showed up to perform community service for nearly 33 community partners. They worked all morning and into the afternoon to help out in whatever ways were needed. The students of Canisius did not waste the opportunity to help out the city of Buffalo.
Senior Campus Minister, Joe Van Volkenburg was thrilled about the day’s success. He believes that Community Day, “brings out the best in the students and community” with a full display of the Jesuit values of Canisius. The event was described online as similar to the biblical action of “Jesus sending people out in pairs to spread the Good News.” Van Volkenburg made sure to emphasize the generosity and commitment exhibited from the students involved, saying “they will do anything asked of them.” He expressed gratitude and pride in the the students who served.
These hundreds of caring students performed a myriad of services that included preparing and serving meals at St. Luke’s Mission, working with Habitat for Humanity at several local locations, assisting in cleaning churches, and helping sort donations at a refugees shelter. The volunteers were spread throughout the city, accomplishing a variety of tasks and showing the depth and enthusiasm of the student body.
No student is more important to this day than Matt Pernick, the student coordinator of Community Day. His work gets more and more intense every week leading up to the big event, starting with one or two weekly meetings and turning into an all out scramble to complete the organization process. Pernick described it as, “a lot of making sure that all groups are registered and making sure that everyone shows up.” It can be a lot for him, but the impact made is worth it.
Pernick was astounded by the turnout given the inclement weather, including more than 50 extra volunteers showing up putting the total to about 330 from the expected 275. Pernick described it as, “a huge testament to the spirit that goes into Community Day and the work that goes into it all.” These students mirrored the same work ethic that he exhibited in the weeks coming up to the big day, doing any job asked of them with enthusiasm and diligence.
Most of all, Pernick emphasized the accountability of all the participants involved. “You know that the 330 people coming to Community Day this time around really want to be there,” he said. Everyone’s on the same level and everyone’s doing the same work.”
Canisius looks to many student groups to participate in this day of generosity. Two of the most populated groups that participated were the Men’s Swimming team and the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. Christian Westermeier, a leader on the swimming team, said that they had around 50 of their team members come out.
Westermeier worked at the Little Portions Friary Homeless Shelter. Their aim is to provide a roof and clothing for homeless adults. The shelter is free and provides meals for the participants. The shelter is “founded in the spirit of Jesus to love, serve, and care for the poor,” and is instrumental to the daily lives of many of Buffalo’s lost souls.
Westermeier described his experience as a great opportunity to give back to the city he loves. Their biggest problem was a good one to have: too many people showed up. It created a laid back atmosphere that gave them an opportunity to converse with those around him. The people found at this shelter included people who lost everything in a divorce, the homeless from the streets, and those who have nowhere to go after their release from jail. Overall, Westermeier called it, “a humbling experience that was important and fulfilling.” He would recommend it to anyone interested.
Another important contributor to Community day is the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, with Pernick calling the sorority “a group we rely on.” They always play an active role and one member, Kayla Maggiore, has participated for the past four years. This time they went to work with a priest and cleaned up a church and chalet. The priest said, “The church is lucky to get cleaned once a year.” Maggiore loves the whole experience because, as she said, “It is a great way to spend a Saturday morning with the Canisius community while helping our neighbors”.
Phi Sigma Sigma brings enough members that another half of them were able to go to St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy. They were able to pack food and clean the church during their visit. It is a charity that is visited on a weekly basis by Canisius students. They are always looking for more students to volunteer, all you have to do is contact Joe Van Volkenburg. Van Volkenburg can often be found in the second floor Old Main hallway near the tunnel to the tower, wrangling students to his cause and generally chatting with those he knows.
At the end of the day, Matthew Pernick believes that Community makes a lasting impression. He said, “The nice thing about going to so many sites is the impact on the students.” Having stayed behind to maintain order behind the scenes he was able to receive the firsthand reports of students’ experiences. It is always a pleasure for him to see plenty of them return for more service.
Pernick is overwhelmingly satisfied with the service done this past Saturday and again extends thanks to those who went. He encouraged students to return or participate for the first time in the upcoming spring community day. The next Community Day will sake place Saturday 8 April, at 10pm. Students can expect to receive further information and applications in the future.