Viterbo University celebrates annual President’s Day of Service

It was a theme of events canceled throughout the day. However, Viterbo students and community members came together to make sure their volunteer service day was going to happen.

The students and organizers said it’s events like this that make their close campus unique.

“It’s hard to describe,” said Colin Burns-Gilbert, integrated learning and programs coordinator
at Viterbo. “It’s really easy to get up at 4:45 a.m. when this is what we are doing.”

He said Viterbo University’s President’s Day of Service launched three years ago.

“It stared with a group of very motivated students and staff who wanted to make a difference that aligned with Viterbo’s values,” Burns-Gilbert said.

Now one Saturday in every month, volunteers take to the streets to save the community time and energy.

“Our usual Service Saturday is about 60 individuals,” said junior volunteer Andrew Wegner.

He said it’s capped off with this end-of-the-year celebration that includes more than 280 volunteers.

“It’s so heartwarming. It really is,” Wegner said.

He said real knowledge is gained for every hour spent on the cause.

“You learn the real world,” Wegner said.

Volunteers help with everything from helping local businesses to baking cookies for fire and police departments.

Burns-Gilbert said there was plenty of work to be done.

“We have a group that is working with our local red cross and fire department they are going to be
installing smoke detectors in houses in La Crosse County,” Burns-Gilbert said.

Volunteers said sacrificing a few hours on a normal day off is no problem.

“It’s our identity. It’s one of our core values,” Wegner said. “That’s what service means to us.”

Burns-Gilbert said the community benefits as a whole.

“Seeing everyone in that crowd up there is why we get to do what we do,” Burns-Gilbert said. “We love it and we would change it for anything.”

Wegner said these experiences have left an imperishable stamp on his life.

“It’s what I identify as now,” Wegner said. “It’s a part of me and I fully accept it. It’s one of my passions.”

He said the work they do is repaid with a smile.

“A smile is so powerful it can change the world,” Wegner said.

Event organizers said they had about 20 volunteer sites throughout the La Crosse area.