Penn State Wilkes-Barre embraces a culture of giving

A group standing with a banner at Valley Youth House

Pictured at Valley Youth House, from left: Nicole Rios, associate director, Valley Youth House; Katie Tosi, life skills case manager, Valley Youth House; Stephanie Andaloro, assistant registrar and assistant to the advising center, Penn State Wilkes-Barre; Rita Hughes, clinical therapist, Valley Youth House; Claudette June, life skills case manager, Valley Youth House; Karen Gallia, administrative assistant in Continuing Education, Penn State Wilkes-Barre; Jacqueline Warnick-Piatt, alumni relations and stewardship officer, Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

Credit: Penn State

DALLAS, Pa. — Thanks to students, faculty, staff and supporters who lead by example, Penn State’s “We Are” mantra extends far beyond us alone. With the close of another academic year, we reflect on how our campus embraces a culture of giving, evidenced by various events and activities brought to life by Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s inspired doers.

Staff Advisory Council’s CommuniTREE Events

Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Staff Advisory Council (SAC) aims to enhance and solidify the partnership between campus staff and administration. SAC comprises committees with focuses ranging from professional development to staff engagement, staff appreciation and more. It also provides staff members with opportunities to get involved with each other and those in our broader community.

During the holiday season last winter, the Staff Advisory Council’s engagement committee spearheaded a CommuniTREE event in support of Valley Youth House, a local nonprofit organization that aims to help young people build foundations for future growth and independence. The campus community was encouraged to donate toiletries, clothing and other items, placing them under a holiday tree in the Student Commons as a gentle reminder of the “real reason for the season.”

Into the new year, the engagement committee continued to collect donations, encouraging the community to support the individuals in Valley Youth House during Valentine’s Day.

“We were overwhelmed by the amount of donations received,” said Karen Gallia, administrative assistant in Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Continuing Education department and a member of the SAC engagement committee. “Together, we were able to provide our neighbors with new and gently used clothing, shoes, bath towels, household items and gift cards. This is such a worthy cause, and we are honored to have been able to support it.”

Project BeLOVED Care Kit Assembly

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, students in the Criminal Justice program and Students for Justice (SFJ) Club hosted a two-day care kit assembly. Provided by the Project Beloved organization, items in each bundle included health essentials, clothing and journals — all compiled for victims of sexual assault to use after being examined by hospital staff.

Thirty-five kits were assembled. Students later delivered them to Victims Resource Center in Wilkes-Barre with Rebecca Sarver, assistant teaching professor and program coordinator of criminal justice.

“We plan to make this an annual event and hope to include care kits for local child advocacy centers next year,” said Sarver.

"Giving back to our community is a privilege that we have as college students, particularly at Penn State Wilkes-Barre,” said Mackenzie Jennings, rising president of SFJ.

“As Students for Justice, we honor our core values: justice, equity, humanity and mercy. Our hope with the care kit assembly and for other projects in the future is to bring attention to critical issues that impact our community while upholding those values. We want to educate those about what we can do to change the stigma and not allow these individuals to continue to be victimized," she said.

United Way’s Annual Day of Caring

Since 2016, Penn State Wilkes-Barre faculty and staff have participated in the United Way of the Wyoming Valley’s Day of Caring, its biggest volunteer event of the year.

This year, the Day of Caring was held on May 11, beginning with a kickoff breakfast for all community participants in downtown Wilkes-Barre. After breakfast, 15 volunteers from Penn State Wilkes-Barre headed to their respective sites for a day of service.

“We selected The Lands at Hillside Farms and the Commission on Economic Opportunity’s (CEO) Weinberg Food Bank as our volunteer sites,” said Gina Miale, administrative assistant of enrollment management and student aid, who serves as Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s campus coordinator for the Day of Caring and other United Way service activities throughout the year.

Volunteers at The Lands at Hillside Farms assisted with various beautification projects, including painting a fence, spreading mulch, planting butterfly and perennial gardens, and building a rock wall underneath a new structure. Those at the food bank packed boxes with nutritious items that will be donated to homebound and low-income seniors in the community.

“You don't realize how many organizations and charities rely on the generosity of volunteers,” said Miale. “We learned that many companies depend almost solely upon teams of volunteers to help them thrive and do their work. Volunteering in our community — the places we visit and patronize — is so fulfilling. Just being able to give back is so incredibly rewarding. We are already looking forward to next year.”

Support for veterans at Penn State Day at Knoebels Amusement Park

On May 14, Penn Staters from around northeastern Pennsylvania gathered at Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg for its annual Penn State Day event sponsored by local Penn State alumni societies and chapters. Attendees enjoyed a performance by the Alumni Blue Band, fun with the Nittany Lion, a picnic lunch, raffles and more.

Those who came were also asked to “raise the roar for our veterans” by bringing gift certificates, toiletries, books, puzzles and crafting supplies to donate to those hospitalized or receiving services at the VA Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre. Gift cards totaling more than $500 were donated, in addition to items that will support veteran enrichment, health and well-being.

“Penn Staters pay it forward. We’re inspired doers who want to positively impact our communities,” said Jackie Warnick-Piatt, alumni relations and stewardship officer at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, who helped organize the event. “That’s what we mean when we say, ‘We Are.’ That’s what being part of this campus — what being part of Penn State — is about.”