WILKES-BARRE — More than 400 Wilkes University students were giving back to the community on Sunday morning during the school’s second annual “Big Event.”
Gathering at the university’s Henry Student Center, participants, many with rake or shovel in hand, were ready to be dispersed throughout Luzerne County.
“Both staff and students at the university are passionate about service,” Mark Allen, dean of students, said. “We have a long history as helpers to those in our community.”
Participants were transported to various sites including Nesbitt Park, Blue Chip Animal Refuge, Bear Creek Camp, Ruth’s Place and the Preservation Society. All indicated a willingness to help in any way necessary, including cleanup, yard work, and preparation for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.
Allen said the university seeks not only to prepare students academically, but also to instill a willingness to serve others.
That willingness seems to be contagious.
Kristofer Rivers, president of the university’s student government and a senior pharmacy student, worked as a driver throughout the event, transporting students to more than 14 sites, where they showed up, cleaned up, raked up and did was necessary to truly help.
“It’s a great thing because we live and study here,” said Rivers. “We now have an opportunity to give back and get to know area residents.”
Senior John Sweeney described the event as an opportunity to “build a real connection with members of the community.”
“The university wants to build a relationship with the community we inhabit,” said Kayla Cathon, Wilkes coordinator of the event. “We want to make it better.”
Student volunteers included members of student government and athletic teams.
Nick Dawson, a member of the football and wrestling programs, said he was more than happy to give up a Sunday morning for a good cause. Juniors Nick Patricia and Jason Kieffer, members of the soccer team, prepared Ashley’s Huber Breaker Preservation’s Society grounds for spring activities.
Paul Wingert, head soccer coach, said he was proud of the efforts of members of his team and of all the students who volunteered their hours for the betterment of the area.
Charlie Hanford, freshman, working to help attendees register and giving out general information, said he was participating because he was a member of student government and “really liked helping.”
Allen, reflecting on the character of Wilkes’ students and the mission of the university itself, said the event was anticipated to be an annual one, as well as Wilkes’ commitment to service to the community in the long term.