No matter where you come from, how old you are or what you do, volunteering and giving back to the community is always rewarding, energizing and inspiring. In addition to benefits such as reducing stress, providing a sense of purpose and advancing your career, researchers at the London School of Economics have even found that volunteering increases happiness.
Since 1995, the Webster Works Worldwide program has provided students, staff, faculty and alumni from across the campuses the chance to take the day off from their usual schedules to volunteer with projects in the community. In St. Louis this year, Webster offered more than 75 opportunities in areas including teaching dance; gardening, cleaning and painting; and caring for animals.
“It’s just such a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about what the human needs are in our community,” Webster University President Elizabeth Stroble says.
Since its inception, more than 31,000 volunteers have given their time to the community on this annual day of service.
“The reason why I love doing Webster Works so much is that it gives us a chance to give back to the community,” Larson Park volunteer, Austin Ratanasitee says. “Many times we are on the university campus, doing our academic work and minding our own business, but this allows us to really reach out to members of the community and other organizations and just help out.”
Students such as Ratanasitee return year after year to Webster Works and their enthusiasm about the day encourages incoming classes to jump on the bandwagon. Freshman Colleen Jordan participated in Webster Works for the first time this year when she worked at Webster Child Care Center.
“We washed walls, some other people did some gardening and heavy lifting,” Jordan says. “My experience was really cool because the little kids were so curious about what we were doing.”
Stroble believes that community service is always valuable, but the lasting benefit is what is gained by the volunteer.
“It is that sense of a bond with other people which to me is the most memorable, and I think the most important,” Stroble says.
Some students are so inspired by this day that they continue volunteering on a more regular basis.
“I would definitely say that Webster Works has inspired me to volunteer outside of today — going around to other organizations and offering help, for example,” Ratanasitee says. “Not just because it makes you feel good but because it helps other people. Something as easy as volunteering can really make a difference.”
Webster Works is a tradition that Webster University can be proud of, and according to Stroble, the tradition will continue long into the future. She believes it is a wonderful gift the university created.
Senior Andie Murphy, volunteer at Great Circle, was happy to be a part of Webster’s annual tradition this year.
“While we are all working on different projects, we are getting to work towards the collective good and
assist the community in a way that I think is really unique to Webster,” Murphy says.
Story by Jess Wright
Photos by Wil Driscoll, Crystal French & Isaac Knopf