By Sheri Webber
Scores of students, faculty, staff, alumni, athletes, and prospective students invaded Jacksonville’s metroplex last Friday with helping hands and open hearts. They gave of themselves in dozens of projects to honor Jacksonville University’s Charter Day of Service. A day also dedicated to the celebration of the University’s 85th birthday.
“Go out and make the world a better place.” A quote oft repeated on campus, by President Tim Cost and beloved JU Chancellor Emerita Dr, Frances Bartlett Kinne. She lived by the phrase, and for eight decades, so has the University.
“Go out and make the world a better place.”
Charter Day, now an annual tradition, is one way JU acts as a catalyst in the exciting transformations happening in Arlington. An anchor of the historic Jacksonville community, JU commits to driving positive change. Making the world a better place isn’t exclusive to Arlington but extends citywide.
Volunteers served 34 organizations throughout Northeast Florida in a single day. More than a thousand JU volunteers participated, including 15 athletic teams and more than 100 prospective students, equalling 3,000 hours served. Partner organizations included churches, schools, area parks, and a local cemetery.
2019 Charter Day Project Highlights
Jacksonville Humane Society
Linda Berry Stein, the namesake of JU’s Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts, joined JU volunteers at the Jacksonville Humane Society for Charter day projects. “What better way to experience how it feels to give back,” she said to students as their day together began. The project involved “Steiners,” recipients of the generous named scholarships made possible by David and Linda Stein who are also avid supporters of the Humane Society. Last year alone, more than 8,800 animals received care at the non-profit, no-kill animal shelter. Students spent the day exercising and socializing more than 20 furry friends.
A bright and clear day welcomed JU students to the 526-acre National Cemetery on Lannie Road. Serving veterans and their families for more than 100 years, the cemetery site located north of the Jacksonville International Airport requires constant maintenance. This Charter Day project involved the beautification of the cemetery as students cared for weather-worn headstones and provided basic lawn care. “Community service is important to making an impact,” said JU senior and Kinesiology major Chelsee Brown. She chose to serve out of a love for service and her school, but also out of respect and love for her grandparents, both buried in the National Cemetery at Jacksonville. Executive Director Alphaeus Richburg said, “We so appreciate volunteers who come out to do the work many people would never want to do.”
OCEARCH “Kick Plastic Project”
The number of plastics going into our waterways is reaching astronomical levels, said Dr. Quint White, Executive Director of JU’s Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI). “We’re talking millions of tons annually. It’s very hard to go anywhere and not see plastic debris along our roads, ditches, rivers, and beaches.” When asked how to combat the plastic problem right here in Jacksonville, dr. White suggests avoiding single-use plastics, joining the Skip the Straw Campaign, carrying reusable cloth bags to your local store, and considering boxed water or reusable containers as an alternative. “Remember, every little bit helps.” More than 45 JU marine science majors and student-athletes, including the women’s rowing team, converged on Jacksonville Beach for a half-day shore clean-up. “We’re not just picking up a piece of trash on the beach, we’re changing the world,” said Christina LoBuglio, a graduate student at MSRI and site captain for this year’s Charter day beachcombing project.
Tree Hill Nature Center
A 50-acre nature reserve established in 1971 with help from JU faculty, Tree Hill offers educational programming and other community outreach programs. JU students, numbering around 35, volunteered on the Hill and split their labors between the Arlington Community Garden and the museum’s animal exhibits. “Charter Day of Service is very important to us at Tree Hill because we manage all 50 acres with only two full-time staff members, part-timers, and volunteers. So, on a day like today, we can accomplish what would normally take us weeks,” said Executive Director Mark Mummaw. The day’s work included weeding, watering, planting, shoveling and spreading sand in farm enclosures, and goat grooming. Tree Hill’s gardens are run primarily by volunteers and are vital to the organization’s efforts in growing food for those in need.
Norman Studios Silent Film Museum works to preserve and promote the history of Northeast Florida’s rich history of silent moviemaking and iconic race films. Norman is remembered for making movies starring black actors. The Norman Film Manufacturing Co. was probably the most sophisticated production facility of 100 U.S. companies featuring films with primarily non-white casts. The landmark campus of Eagle Film City/Norman Studios was in its heydey about the time JU was chartered. For Charter Day 2019, student volunteers helped create new displays by recycling campaign signs, worked in the archives, and assisted with scanning and filing historic documents and films.
Wilma’s Little People School
Three- and four-year-olds at Wilma’s Little People School (WLPS) on JU’s campus enjoyed a fun day that included a short lacrosse lesson. Members of the Women’s Lacrosse (LAX) team instructed WLPS students on beginner how-to’s before helping with some spring maintenance on the playground. WLPS is home to children from the community, JU faculty and administration, and students.
Mia, a sophomore at JU who plays defense for the team, worked alongside her teammates and WLPS students while on crutches. She had surgery four weeks ago to repair a torn ACL. “The team is so supportive and the new facility is amazing. It’s nice to all be together.” Though Mia is out for the season with her injury, she didn’t let it stop her on Charter Day. “Our coach’s son attends Wilma’s and these little ones even come to our games sometimes.”
Assistant Professor and Director of Engineering Programs Dr. Huihui (Helen) Wang stood on the sidelines laughing and watching the organized chaos on the LAX field. Her daughter Amelia, who started at WLPS at only 20-months old, is among the dozens of preschoolers in JU green t-shirts. “It’s so convenient for faculty and its important for children to explore all these different experiences at a young age.”
Beyond the Classroom
JU’s flagship service-learning course, now in its third year, is offered through the Sociology department and is open to students in any major. Here, students learn leadership skills and how to apply such skills in the areas of community engagement, teamwork, communication, and ethics. Dr. Laura Atkins leads the course. “The class has played a key role in our Charter Day of Service. This spring, 26 student leaders assisted with planning and logistics, volunteer sign up, and served as site captains.” Students earn academic service-learning credit that can be used toward JU’s experiential learning graduation requirement.
Real-world learning and community service are an important part of JU culture. As an institution committed to shaping tomorrow’s leaders, the University upholds service as a foundational pillar to success. On Charter Day, that hallmark commitment to service springs to life in a big way. Blazing trails, striving for excellence, and igniting a passion for service in students is what Charter Day is all about.
Charter Day is also the designated day for JU’s Big Green Give. Dolphins around the world came together on April 12 for the University’s biggest day of giving in history. Close to 2,800 donors invested more than $630,000 in support of JU and its students. This marks a new record for the Big Green Give helps fuel JU’s progress in making the world a better place.