Gannon University held its annual Service Fest Wednesday in the Yehl Ballroom of Waldron Campus Center, presenting students, faculty and staff with local volunteer opportunities.

Gretchen Fairley, director of Gannon’s service learning program, said since more than 30 organizations participated this year, she felt that 2013’s Service Fest was a great success.

Fairley said the Service Fest tradition had been happening before she joined Gannon’s faculty in 2006, and the event is known best for its ability to attract faculty and staff as well as students.

Fairley said that Service Fest appeals to the Gannon community because of the university’s emphasis on service learning.  With more than 50 service learning courses being offered this semester, all types of groups are attracted to Service Fest’s opportunities, including athletic groups, scholarship students and sororities and fraternities.

Sophomore Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity members Scott Conrad and Corey Olszewski came to Service Fest searching for opportunities to gain service hours for the fraternity.

“Our fraternity is heavily involved in service,” Conrad said, so the two were drawn to Service Fest.  Although neither student had been to Service Fest in the past, each is familiar with the feelings produced by volunteering.

“I get a sense of pride being able to help people,” Olszewski said.  “Whether it’s running a race and helping people get safely through it or cleaning up an old building, it’s a good feeling.”

Conrad agreed, saying that volunteering “is kind of like seeing a whole different world.

“It’s two ends of a spectrum: the underprivileged, and the people who always get what they want,” he said.

Walking beside the students at Wednesday’s event were staff and faculty members who were also interested in checking out the participating organizations.

“I come here every year to say hello and thank the vendors for coming,” said the Rev. Michael Kesicki, associate vice president of Mission and Ministry at Gannon.  “It’s important to appreciate what other people are doing within the community.”

Kesicki said he thinks Service Fest gets the Gannon community to see just how busy Erie is, and it allows students to meet individuals who are very committed to a cause.

Among these individuals are spokeswomen Paige Bosnyak, with Erie’s Bayfront Eastside Taskforce (B.E.S.T.) and Karen Dodson from the Erie Art Museum.  Both organizations received student response, despite being on different ends of the Gannon affiliation spectrum.

Bosnyak said that participating in Gannon’s Service Fest is B.E.S.T.’s most recent effort to get involved with Gannon, while Dodson said the museum gets contacted daily by Gannon community members.

“With B.E.S.T., I was worried students would be attracted to bigger, better-known organizations,” Bosnyak said.  “We received a great response, though.”

Dodson has been attending Service Fest with the Erie Art Museum since 2010, and she said it’s “an amazing thing.”

“Service Fest absolutely brings traffic to the Erie Art Museum,” Dodson said.  “We get sororities and fraternities, potential work studies…these volunteers add a dynamic aspect to the museum’s staff.”

Most of all, Gannon’s Service Fest has brought feelings of unity to the university,  Kesicki said.

“One organization may draw us more than another,” he said, “but Service Fest definitely brings a sense of connection.”

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