Participating in Vincentian Service Day was a life-changing experience for DePaul Senior Joshua Smyser. "It ignited a spark in me — in each of us — to do what is right and just," he said.

Smyser was just one of more than 1,500 participants in this year’s Vincentian Service Day (VSD), an annual event on the first Saturday in May when DePaul volunteers — students, faculty and staff members — go out into the city to serve others.

"It allows us to see the need for service in Chicago and the benefits it can bring to a community," Smyser said.

This year, the event began with an early-morning rally on the Quad, which included inspirational messages from student leaders and welcoming remarks by DePaul President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider. Volunteers were then bussed to one of more than 80 volunteer sites throughout Chicago for nearly three hours of community work, resulting in more than 4,700 hours of community service.

"For my first VSD, I helped clean out and arrange furniture in a building that would be used for new service programs for the North Lawndale community," said Smyser, who participated this year in his fourth Vincentian Service Day. "For the past three VSD's I have served as site coordinator at St. Aloysius parish (which borders the Humboldt Park and Wicker Park communities). I have been in charge of bringing students from DePaul to St. Aloysius and creating service projects for them to be a part of. I have helped plant flowers and pick up litter around the surrounding neighborhood, assisted in the creation of a parish community garden, and cleaned out furniture from a property that was going to be demolished in place for a new community center that will be completed this July."

The day was capped off by a celebratory student rally, held in Union Park on the near west side of Chicago in the afternoon. The rally gave students the opportunity to reflect on their day of service.

Reflection, Adding Meaning to Service

Rubén Alvarez, University Minister for DePaul Community Service Association (DCSA) & Service Days, thinks reflection is an important part of the day.

"I overheard students saying things during their reflection time like ‘Service without reflection is just work," and "Serving gave us all the chance to bond," and ‘People coming together wanting to do something for the community is a true expression of what peace is like," observed Alvarez. "It's inspiring to see our students come together willing to help, to make a difference."

Reflection provides a way for students to connect the service work they provided and larger social issues. "Reflection is a way of adding meaning to service," Alvarez said.

Although Vincentian Service Day occurs just one day each year, Smyser said that many DePaul students, like himself, are involved in community projects and volunteering year-round.

"In the end, it (Vincentian Service Day) serves to motivate all those who participate to continue to be involved in service projects in our everyday lives, long after the day is over."


Vincentian Service Day 2012 photo collage 

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