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Community service isn’t what we do. It’s who we are. When you’re a Lakeland Muskie, helping others and making your community a better place is in your DNA.

That commitment to community service starts during all freshmen’s first week on campus, when they participate in “Building Bridges” and volunteer their time at up to eight local non-profit businesses.

From that point on, the opportunities for – and involvement in – community service are frequent.

We encourage our students to participate in community service, because it aligns with our identity as a university. We think it’s a very important part of a student’s overall development into a well-rounded, civic-minded citizen.

Following are just some of the recent community service initiatives Lakeland University students have participated in:

Football players help make Halloween special

Football players help make Halloween special

For six straight years, groups of Lakeland football players have volunteered at the annual Halloween extravaganza at Lincoln-Erdman Elementary School in Sheboygan. The players run all of the many games and activities and mingle with the children.

Said Lincoln-Erdman Principal Amanda Barttelt-Schermetzler: "It's a great way for the players to get involved in the community, and they certainly help us out a great deal. They're a great asset to us and we are very thankful. They're doing an awesome job relating to the children. They're naturals."

Softball players help Meals on Wheels

Softball players help Meals on Wheels

This past fall, five Lakeland softball players and an assistant coach traveled to Sheboygan to help prepare "Blizzard Meals" for Meals on Wheels. Blizzard Meals are bags of non-perishable food that people can eat from when the weather prevents them from getting out of the house for shopping.

In a two-week period, Lakeland softball players made two trips to help at Meals on Wheels and volunteered at the Humane Society. Head coach Hailey Dreyer said her players believe in connecting with their community and helping others. "We're supposed to give back," she said. "And doing this kind of service gives our players a real sense of perspective."

Delivering on a promise to Safe Harbor

Delivering on a promise to Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor of Sheboygan County Executive Director Laura Roenitz had tears in her eyes as she talked about what the Lakeland women's tennis team had done.

"I can't tell you how incredibly in awe I am of these young women," Roenitz said. "Young women helping other women. I get a little bit choked up when I talk about it. They're amazing."

Lakeland's women's tennis team took a van to Sheboygan on Thursday to present Roenitz with a check for $2,064. The Muskies raised the money for Safe Harbor, a shelter for abused women and children, through pledges they earned by scoring points in their final match of the season last month.

Trick-or-treating ... for others

Trick-or-treating ... for others

During trick-or-treat time last fall, representatives from four Lakeland athletic teams and two other campus groups canvased Sheboygan and Howards Grove in search of non-perishable food items. This community service initiative, which will benefit the Sheboygan Food Pantry, was part of the ongoing Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference “Cans Across the Conference” Food Drive.

A. Chappa "Canstruction" Competition

A. Chappa "Canstruction" Competition

Creativity met philanthropy in a huge way last fall, when dozens of Lakeland students and employees competed for a good cause. The competitors, who represented 14 sports teams, clubs or offices, built things with nonperishable food cans and boxes they had collected. It was a spirited competition, with the men's volleyball team taking first place. Second and third place both went to teams of Lakeland employees. More than 5,000 cans or boxes of food were collected, and all of it will be donated to the Sheboygan Food Pantry. For more details, check out the captions under some of the photos.

Sheboygan County Food Bank Drive

Sheboygan County Food Bank Drive

Lakeland officially donated 13,442 non-perishable food items to the Sheboygan County Food Bank last fall. That number crushed last year's total of 7,739. The collection drive was part of the annual Cans Across the Conference competition.

Said Liz Kroll, Sheboygan County Food Bank coordinator: "Oh my gosh, I'm totally flabbergasted. This is the biggest private donation we've had."

Kroll said there are 2,500 families in the county that regularly depend on the Sheboygan County Food Bank, which distributes food to 10 local outlets around the county. "I think it's amazing how the Lakeland community rallied to help us," said Kroll. "Our shelves are nearly empty, and this will help so much."

“Red Out” at Lakeland

“Red Out” at Lakeland College

Lakeland's women's basketball team sponsored a "Red Out" game during the 2013-14 season, supporting heart health and the fight against heart disease.

VITA Program Going Strong

VITA Program Going Strong

Every year during tax time, Lakeland accounting students power the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax return service for lower-income citizens.

"VITA is a wonderful thing," says Lakeland graduate Brittney Mauk, who completed her degree in accounting last December and now works for Schenck Business Solutions. "Not only did it give me hands-on experience; it also connects Lakeland students to the community. It's such a great feeling to see the joy in people's faces and hear them say, 'Thank you so much!' "

The Sheboygan VITA program is sponsored by Guaranty Bank and Schenck SC.

Brett Killion, in his third year as Lakeland's assistant professor of accounting, said his students – with help from Lakeshore Technical College students – handled 766 state returns and 665 federal returns in 2013. The average federal return yielded $1,356 and the average Sheboygan VITA state refund was $540.

In its first nine years, Lakeland's program has collected more than $9 million in tax refunds for low income earners in the area.

"There are people out there who are struggling," says Killion. "We provide that free service and hopefully put dollars in their pockets."

Cards from the heart

Cards from the heart

They stopped by the craft table between classes, or during their lunch hour. Sometimes these Lakeland students came in groups; sometimes they sat down and worked alone. They cut, glued, crafted and wrote heartfelt messages of hope and love.

And when the one-day Lakeland Valentine’s Day card-crafting campaign came to an end, there were 104 beautiful, unique handmade cards ready for delivery to the Plymouth, Wis. headquarters of Project Angel Hugs (, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the emotional support of children with cancer. Project Angel Hugs will mail the Lakeland cards to cancer-stricken children all over the nation.

“Our students always go above and beyond,” said Sally Bork, Lakeland’s interim director of student activities. “Project Angel Hugs is a local organization that’s doing great things, and we’re very proud of our students for being so enthusiastic about helping.”

A Walk for Peace

A Walk for Peace

The Rev. Frederick Trost stepped up to the pulpit and smiled as he looked out at the nearly 200 people gathered in the Immanuel United Church of Christ.

"Fantasic!" he exclaimed. "Lakeland comes through!"

About half-an-hour earlier, members of Lakeland ’s family and friends left campus for Monday's tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The plan was for this special walk to be lit, but a brisk, cold wind blew out all but a few people's candles. Undaunted, the nearly 200 hardy souls marched on, through the teeth of the cold wind toward the church nearly a half-mile away.

After the group gathered at Immanuel UCC, Rev. Trost, who marched with Dr. King in the early 1960s in Chicago, spoke passionately about the greatness of King and the important role today's young people play in making this world a better place.

"Dr. King's dream must not fade," he exclaimed.

The Rev. Rob Sizemore, Lakeland's former chaplain, followed Trost to the pulpit and expressed his pride in the large turnout for Monday's Peace Walk and in the way Lakeland and the UCC embrace and celebrate diversity. Rev. Sizemore challenged all Lakeland family members to be kind to each other and to give everyone "an extravagant welcome" when they cross paths on campus.

Then everyone sang the civil rights movement anthem, "We shall overcome" before bundling up and marching back to campus together to enjoy hot chocolate, coffee, cookies and camaraderie.

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