Project RED, which stands for reaching every door, was a community service event designed and coordinated by Lauren Wingard, a Saint Francis University student. Wingard got the idea from Texas A&M who hosted “The Big Event,” a way of giving back to the community. She knew a project like this would work well within the areas surrounding Saint Francis.
Before RED could begin Wingard had to lay out the ground work with the local community. She attended the local borough meeting to explain the project and determine the level of interest. Every person there was on board and excited about the project. Once this approval was received an application process was created for community members to receive volunteers. This was mostly done to ensure the safety of the students involved.
The all day event took place on October 5. The goal of this project was to get students involved in the local community as way to say thanks. 208 students signed up to be volunteers, most of whom are athletes, for the 24 community projects. They did service in Ebensburg, Loretto, Cresson, Gallitzin, and Duncansville.
The volunteers were given a variety of tasks; anything from painting to yard work to house cleaning. Some of the establishments that were served included the Cresson EMS center, the Ebensburg Public Library, and the Cambria County Historical Center. In addition, 20 residents from Cambria County were assisted with work around their homes.
Sabrina La Mantia, Blaken Geisel, and Emilee Janidlo, all university freshmen, spent their day at the Cresson EMS Center. They worked diligently washing and waxing the ambulances, and cleaning the garage. The students originally heard about Project RED through the annual campus involvement fair. Janidlo was involved in a similar outreach program through her high school and wanted to continue on with her service. All three were excited to be doing something positive for the community, especially something as important as maintaining the ambulances. Geisel, a physician assistant major, commented on the fact that, “Since the ambulances are ready to go the EMS personnel can focus on what’s truly important, saving lives.”
At the Ebensburg Public Library students were asked to clean and organize bookshelves. Janet Emerick, a local volunteer, and Toni Huber, the library’s business manager, emphasized how grateful they were for the extra helping hands. Emerick stated that, “With all of the recent cutbacks there has been little money for staff, which means no money for cleaning.” The volunteers helped to give the library a thorough cleaning, a very large job.
The Cambria County Historical Society asked for volunteers to weed around the property. Joe Inzana, a board member, explained how they take great pride in the grounds of the historical society. He also believes that the beauty of the grounds helps to bring people into the onsite museum.
RED was designed to touch as many people as possible in one day. This was accomplished through the effort of the many student volunteers. Individuals and organizations throughout the Cambria County area were assisted with chores that helped to improve their properties, and in some cases increase their quality of life. Project RED has proved to be beneficial to both the community and to the volunteers who feel enriched by the work they have done.
Follow-up calls were completed to every community member within two days following the event; the community gave amazing feedback. They praised the students and kept repeating how they were very impressed with the students’ polite and hardworking attitudes. Community members were pleasantly surprised at how much work the small number of students accomplished at each location.
The students felt as enriched by the community after they completed their service. Wingard said that, “Countless students approached me after returning from their assignments and stated how they were very moved by the help they were able to do in the community. Some students even wanted the contact information for their community members in order to stay in touch with them and see if they ever needed anything in the future. The students did a wonderful job of giving back to the community that already does so much for us.”
Lauren Wingard also remarked, “This event will pave a pathway for a new tradition at SFU.” The plan is for RED to develop into an annual event in which the students give thanks to the surrounding communities. The students learned a lot this year, and plan to make next year’s event bigger and better.