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Making a difference: the Viterbo University Service Saturday Program

The Viterbo University Service Saturday program is making a positive difference, both in the greater La Crosse community and in the education of the Viterbo students who participate.

Started in the spring of 2016 and held once a month during the school year, Viterbo Service Saturdays feature an average of 60 students, employees, and friends of the university performing service work in the greater La Crosse area. Viterbo partners with up to 19 community organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Place of Grace Catholic Worker House, and the Boys and Girls Club.

Service Saturdays are in keeping with Viterbo’s Catholic and Franciscan heritage and are designed to demonstrate the importance of community service to students. Many students find the activity to be very rewarding, and they in turn will go on to volunteer and give of their time and talents long after graduation. 326 Viterbo community members participated in projects during a special Service Saturday held to celebrate the inauguration of Viterbo President Glena Temple on April 8.

“Service Saturdays provide an oppor- tunity for Viterbo students to connect with their neighbors and understand the needs and assets in our local community,” said Kirsten Gabriel, who heads the Viterbo Service Saturday program. “Students also grow in their awareness of themselves and others. They come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of why service is a mutually beneficial experience.”

“The experiences I have had through Service Saturdays have allowed me to better connect with the Franciscan values of the university,” said recent Viterbo graduate R. L. Olson, a management information systems major. “Each event gave students wonderful opportunities to get out into the community together to serve various non-profits. I will certainly return to some of these organizations to volunteer again in the future.”