Members of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) at Syracuse University recently rallied under the spirit of volunteerism to support the campus community and greater Syracuse community.
Amid the final weeks of the semester, through the hectic schedule of the holidays and final exams, the military-connected students collected donations to help local families in need and ventured out into the first snowstorm of the season to honor the memory of Central New York veterans who came before them.
The students first came together to support the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry. By leveraging their cross-campus network, they were able to collect a sizable donation for the pantry, which also provides resources to help individuals overcome financial hardships and establish personally sustainable financial solutions.
“Hendricks Chapel is such a great centerpiece for the student experience here, and this year we really wanted to find a way to collaborate with other organizations,” says Anthony Ruscitto ’22, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and president of the SVO. “Most people who have spent time at Syracuse University know that Hendricks Chapel is a place where if you donate to that center, you can be confident that it’s going to benefit people in this community.”
The SVO collected more than 200 pounds of food comprising more than 400 different items during the drive this year. The SVO’s executive board relied on a time-honored military tactic that has proven successful throughout centuries of military history—they called for support.
Professor Jonathan French, who teaches chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, was approached by Jack Pullano, a student veteran and the public affairs coordinator for the SVO. Originally, Pullano asked to place a collection bin in the chemistry department, but due to the department’s small size the professor wondered how effective it would be. French offered to put a challenge out to his classes for donations, offering bonus points on an upcoming exam as an incentive to donate.
“I have never done anything like this, and I didn’t know if the challenge was wildly high or low, but I was willing to find out. I set the item total for the class and not per person so that if someone was unable to donate, they were still able to receive the bonus points,” says French. “We had one student bring in 62 one-pound boxes of pasta! When I went with Jack to drop off the donations from the second day, I was surprised to see that a good portion of the donations from the previous day was already gone.”
For veterans, there are also those moments to give back by paying respect to those who served before them. On Saturday, Dec. 17, members of the SVO took part in National Wreaths Across America Day, a day of recognition for those who served and are no longer with us.
National Wreaths Across America Day takes place every year on a Saturday in December. The event started as a small, private tribute to fallen servicemembers and slowly grew over the years to a national effort of recognition. More than 3,400 cemeteries joined Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the annual event, including nearby Oakwood Cemetery located just south of main campus.