USF Sarasota-Manatee students give back for Service Saturday

Dr. Sandra Stone surrounded by USFSM student volunteers.

Dr. Sandra Stone surrounded by USFSM student volunteers at Family Promise.

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 23, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee students got a lesson in community service on Saturday, volunteering at a food bank and a shelter.

The group met at the campus, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, about 9 a.m. to catch rides to Family Promise Sarasota and the Sarasota-based All Faiths Food Bank as part of “Service Saturday.”

“This is our chance to give back to the community,” Campus Activities Board President Katerina Pluhacek said of the once-monthly, four-hour volunteer program. “We love our community. It was definitely worth it.”

Students stocked shelves and filled boxes at the food bank while at Family Promise another 10 rolled up their sleeves to dust, sweep and scrub the shelter, which houses up to three families at a time for 90 days each.

“We did a lot of deep cleaning, moving furniture and getting into corners,” Pluhacek said. “We cleaned the whole house.”

The group also made time for a 16-passenger bus used by Family Promise and a storage shed so crammed with donations and other items that at first they weren’t sure how to tackle the job. The students started by removing nearly every item so it could be organized and put onto shelves later. Then they dusted and swept the place.

The group wasn’t alone. The students found help from an unlikely source: USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone stopped by to lend a hand, saying she was only too happy to oblige.

“I was so pleased to be a part of the Service Saturday event this week with our students,” Dr. Stone said. “Part of the mission of USF Sarasota-Manatee is to be community engaged and to have a significant positive impact on our local area. I am proud of the students for organizing this monthly event that shows their commitment to our hometown.”

Service Saturday launched last month with about 20 students but has since risen to 33 students. They volunteer at shelters, food banks and other charitable organizations on the third Saturday of the month.

“Service Saturday is one the first major outreach initiatives that we’ve undertaken this year,” Kati Hinds, coordinator of Student Organizations & Leadership, said. “I think people see that we have the resources to help the community and the students see this as an opportunity to give back. I’m just really proud of our students’ involvement in this.”