By George Gregory
Special to The CS&T

“Charity is not just giving; rather, it is removing the need of those who received charity and liberating them from it whenever possible.” These words of St. Thomas of Villanova, the 16th century Augustinian Bishop of Valencia, Spain, and the patron of Villanova University, provided the primary reflection as more than 4,500 students, faculty, staff and alumni from the university took part in their fifth annual day of service on Sept. 11.

They travelled to more than 180 service locations throughout the Delaware Valley to make a difference in those communities by planting trees, painting and cleaning up playgrounds and packaging food for hunger relief organizations among many other works of compassion.

The Day of Service was initiated by Father Peter Donohue, O.S.A., in 2006 when he was inaugurated as Villanova’s 32nd president. “Villanova has a campus-wide commitment to service, and the Day of Service is an extension of that,” he said. The event has grown significantly each year since it began. In the first year 1,200 people participated, and last year the number grew to more than 4,000.

“During this day, our students, faculty and staff performed nearly 20,000 hours of service collectively to improve communities, both here and across the country,” Father Donohue said.

“Helping the community out, I realize that I can make a difference,” said freshman Jonathan Jeong, who is from Bergen County, N. J. He was part of a group sent to Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote to assist in some needed grounds keeping projects. Junior Laura Lee from Westchester, N.Y., was part of the same group. “In addition to community service (we) have ample opportunities to bond during this day,” she said.

Other groups were sent to work at Don Guanella School in Springfield, Delaware County, Germantown High School and the Christian Street YMCA, both in Philadelphia, and the Tyler Arboretum in Media, as well as food cupboards in Chester and Camden, N.J.

“I always enjoy driving for this event,” said Lisa Beck, a school bus driver for Krapf’s Bus Companies in Glenmoore and West Chester. “The students are always so enthusiastic and courteous.”

Krapf’s dispatched more than 120 school buses to transport the volunteers to their respective service assignments, and at daybreak on the morning of Sept. 11, the main parking lot at Villanova was a sea of yellow.

It was also fitting that the day of serving those less fortunate occurred on the ninth anniversary of the tragic events in 2001 that changed countless lives.

“We observed a moment of silence before heading out to the buses,” said junior Walter Hong from Cresskill, N.J. “Learning that Villanova alumni were among the victims of the attack truly put us in the proper mindset.”

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville