St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service

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A sign welcomes volunteers for screenings at the McDaniel school.

 

The St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service brings together thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families each year to team up with local agencies to participate in service throughout the Philadelphia region. This year, thousands participated in the event; whether it was in large groups traveling to various regions in the city to perform health screening or behind the scenes making meals and helping with other prep work, this was certainly a Day of Service to remember.

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Last fall, the Day of Service brought 82 Villanova Nurses to perform health screenings and teach health promotion to the McDaniel school. This year, on Friday, September 21st, our volunteer efforts increased with 107 Villanova Nurses including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and alumni volunteering. It was the first time this many Villanova nurses banded together for a service event and the largest and most diverse nursing community service project that can be remembered. The event was coordinated by Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP-Villanova) and included the Undergraduate Nursing Senate, Chi Eta Phi and the College of Nursing.

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The volunteers travelled to the Philadelphia school in an effort to assist the school’s nurse practitioner, Rodney Abary, in performing vision and height-weight screenings as well as nutrition education. Over 200 kindergarten and other children were screened. Nurse Abary said that of those who were deemed to need further evaluation, he found these children to have definitive vision deficits. He continued by appreciating our efforts in that this “really will make a huge difference in their lives to start off their school experience without the added trouble of having vision problems.” The Day of Service helps to alleviate the problem of availability of services because though these services exist, a critical issue has been having enough resources to screen so many children.

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During the last academic year, 950 children were screened, identifying about 1 in 5 children who required follow-up vision screenings. These follow up screening were free, inducing eyeglasses and other services, and were provided by such sources as the Philadelphia Eagles Flight for Sight Program, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Wills Eye Hospital. The children who were screened this year will also receive this same free follow-up.

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There were also volunteers in the classrooms that educated over 300 children and their teachers on healthy eating. The school has no health teacher and only one school nurse who divides his time between McDaniel and another school. Nurse Abary, who has been at McDaniel for 17 years, greatly appreciated the help as it is an overwhelming task for one nurse to undertake for that many students. The trip to McDaniel demonstrates Villanova Nurses’ ongoing commitment to a school community with profound need and to addressing healthcare disparities through use of expert, existing resources.

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Other volunteer services included a group of 14 freshman led by Susan Leighton, program assistant for second degree options,  who travelled to Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius Loyola Mission School in Philadelphia. The freshmen were an orientation group and included two nursing students. The group cleaned and painted a store room and the stairs/stairwell in their cafeteria. Really getting their hands dirty, the group dug out dead plants and trees, weeded the gardens, yards, and fences and planted mums as well as cleaned up all the trash in the cemetery, playground and gardens.

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Dr. Linda Copel, professor, led eight students from the Chinese Students and Scholars Association who went to St. Charles Borromeo Church and Rectory to accomplish two goals: paint the chapel in the rectory and to wash the pew in the very large, cathedral-like church. This was no easy undertaking as many furnishings had to be removed, including the altar and other sacramentals before painting could begin. Parish members, church staff members and the church Pastor, Father Edward Kuczynski all pitched in to help. Other members of the group washed and removed candle wax from the old, ornate wooden pews. The cleaning did not stop there—the group also removed insects, mostly spiders and their nests, and fixed protruding nails at the end of the pews that posed potential safety hazards.

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For the second year in a row, Dr. Mary Pickett, associate professor, was a site leader for the Day of Service at Siloam wellness center for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Located in Philadelphia and founded by Rev. Donald Reilly, OSA, former Prior Provincial and a member of the COPE Advisory Committee and Sister Bernadette Kinniry, a Sister of Mercy, the center offers a variety of complimentary services for persons living with these diseases. Sister Bernadette and Kathy McGuire, also a sister of Mercy and a Villanova graduate, direct the program of services. The Villanova volunteers consisted of 13 members of the Blue Key Society who represent a diverse range of majors, Professor Emerita Dr. Claire Manfredi, and retired graduate program assistant Geri Hansen. The team brought buckets, mops, gardening equipments, cardboard boxes and more. Before beginning their work, the group was given an overview of Siloam and even had the chance to talk with one of the volunteers at the center who expressed his own experiences with AIDS and the positive impact that Siloam has had on his life. Cleaning, yard work, organizing and helping prepare for the center’s upcoming relocation were some of the services Villanova was happy to provide.

Though some were unable to participate on the day of these organized trips, Villanovans still contributed by baking for St. John’s Hospice or preparing lunches for Saturday’s volunteers. The opportunity to give back in any way and support our neighbors is an important part of the Villanova mission and tradition. The St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service gives us a chance to do just and to remember our sense of community.