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Answering the annual 'President's Invitation to Serve'

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More than 40 members of the Mount St. Mary's community helped package 14,000-plus meals for Save Hunger now - one of five organizations the College partnered with during its annual "President's Invitation to Serve" in March.  

More than 120 students, alums, faculty, staff and friends of Mount St. Mary's helped serve our neighbors this past weekend during the College's seventh annual “President’s Invitation to Serve.” 

Members of the Mount community volunteered at five service projects on Saturday, March 23, helping to: plant a garden and complete other projects at Alexandria House; pack and sort food at the L.A. Regional Food Bank; clean up the beach with Heal The Bay; feed families around the world – and around the corner – with Stop Hunger Now; and clear space for a new garden to grow at Lanterman High School

Mount St. Mary’s President Ann McElaney-Johnson again issued this year’s call to service, continuing what has become an annual tradition at the College. As volunteers gathered at the College’s Doheny Campus Saturday morning before busing to their volunteer sites, McElaney-Johnson traced where Mount St. Mary’s emphasis on service began. 

“Thank you to everyone for being here,” McElaney-Johnson said. “You are carrying forward the spirit of our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who sought to serve all persons without distinction, and taught us to consider everyone as our ‘dear neighbors.’” 

At Lanterman High School, about 15 volunteers helped to clear space to cultivate a new garden at the school. Among those tilling the soil were Athenian students Dana Banks ’15 and Amanda Chavez ’14. 

“When I have the chance to give back, I feel like I’m not only helping my community but I’m also helping myself become a better person,” Banks said. “That’s why I’m here this morning. Just working along with everyone from the Mount community, it makes me really happy to be a part of this.” 

“I chose to come here today to give back to this community, because if I can make someone’s day brighter, then it’s all worth it,” Chavez added. “That’s what the Mount is really about. Plugging you back into the community.”

Over at the Santa Monica coastline, Blanca Duenas ’16 helped clean the beach with a group serving with Heal the Bay. “It’s interesting,” Duenas said. “I’ve been to the pier at Santa Monica before. You go and you look out into the ocean, but you don’t see all the trash that’s right below you.” 

Duenas added that while they were picking up trash, a man came up to the group and thanked them. “You’re not expecting a reward to do something like that,” Duenas said, “but it’s really fulfilling in your heart to know that what you’re doing matters to other people.”

Back at Mount St. Mary’s campus, a crew of volunteers helped package rice, soy and vegetables into simple meal packages to support the work of the hunger-relief agency Stop Hunger Now. 

“It was really a blessing for me to be here and see the energy and passion of everyone who helped.,” says Brandon Romano, program manager for Stop Hunger Now of Southern California. “We had about 40 volunteers helping us today, and within a three-hour time span, they packaged more than 14,000 meals for us.” 

Stop Hunger Now provides meals both locally and globally, focusing on providing meals to schools that don’t have lunch programs, to encourage students to stay in class and pursue their education. The meals that Mount community members packaged Saturday will go to a school in Hinche, Haiti.  

In addition to the hands-on service last Saturday, the Mount community also held supply drives to support St. Joseph Center’s Food Bank and the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter. The dual food and pet-supply drives end Friday, March 29. All "Invitation to Serve" activities were organized through collaboration between the College’s Community Engagement office, the President’s Office, Alumnae Relations and Campus Ministry. 

“The President’s Invitation To Serve is a wonderful way for the entire Mount community to come together in the spirit of our founders,” says Kim Terrill, director of Community Engagement and Career Services. “This is an excellent model for our students as we develop them academically, personally and spiritually, to serve our global community.” 

And Mount St. Mary’s students, faculty and staff don’t serve just one day a year. The “President’s Invitation to Serve” simply highlights many year-round volunteer opportunities offered. To learn about all of the College’s community service initiatives, visit: www.msmc.la.edu/communityengagement

To view more pictures from the day, visit Mount St. Mary’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/msmcla