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Staff Appreciation Week Closes with Day of Service

volunteers at Ronald McDonald House
UVM staff members William Vitagliano, Ashley Clark and Mandy Russin spruce up a room at Burlington's Ronald McDonald House. (Photo: Sally McCay)

For UVM staffers Ashley Clark and Mandy Russin, last Friday's day of service was a chance to give back. Clark and Russin, who both work in the Faculty Senate office, spent the afternoon with eight other UVM staff members touching up paint jobs in guest rooms at Burlington's Ronald McDonald House.

It wasn't their first encounter with the organization, which provides a "home away from home" at little to no cost for families with hospitalized children. As a young child, Clark stayed at a Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia when her infant brother was undergoing three heart surgeries. "Although I was a toddler," she says, "I can still remember the sense of relief that my parents had once we were settled with a home, a full refrigerator, and other parents to talk to who were going through some of the same issues as them."

Russin's niece and nephew, born prematurely four years ago and weighing less than a pound and a half each, spent more than four months in Fletcher Allen's neonatal intensive care unit. "During that time," she says, "our family made a close connection with the Ronald McDonald House and all of the supports that they offer."

So when UVM announced that its closing activity for Staff Appreciation Week, which this year ran from Sept. 30-Oct. 4, was a day of service at three local organizations, including Ronald McDonald House, Clark and Russin knew where they would volunteer. "I am delighted to be able to give back to the organization that helped to hold my family together," Clark says.

Coordinated through the United Way Volunteer Connection, the service event also provided help in the form of organizing, stocking, cleaning, and sorting, among other tasks, to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf and ReSource, which, through its Essential Goods Program, donates necessary items to families in need while offering refurbished items at an affordable price to the general public. Eighteen UVM staff in total participated.

"As we talked about a meaningful addition to our itinerary this year, we were drawn to the idea of highlighting the heart of staff for service, while making a difference in the community around us," says Rodman Cory, a Human Resource Services staff member who oversees the planning for Staff Appreciation Week. "We know that we're surrounded by UVM staff who go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis, and we wanted to showcase that kind of lifestyle."

Feedback, Cory says, has been positive, and signs point to this year's inaugural event becoming a tradition. "I enjoyed the experience immensely," Russin says, "and cannot wait to do it again next year." But she's also not waiting that long: "As a result of staff volunteer day, my colleague and I have decided to volunteer with the Ronald McDonald House on an ongoing basis."

See more photos from the volunteering event on Flickr.