USF Receives Forest Preserve of Will County Award

February 9, 2018 | Joliet, Ill.

On Feb. 8, USF’s Sr. Mary Imler and Fr. Terry Deffenbaugh accepted the Appreciation of Partners award from the Forest Preserve District of Will County.

Joliet, Ill.- The University of St. Francis (USF) proudly accepted the Appreciation of Partners Award from community partners, the Forest Preserve District of Will County (FPDWC) on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 during the FPDWC Board of Commissioner’s meeting. USF Vice President for Mission Integration Sr. Mary Imler and Chaplain Fr. Terry Deffenbaugh accepted the award on behalf of the university.

The FPDWC Appreciation of Partners award began in 2001 and is given annually to an organization within the community for its continuing contributions to the Forest Preserve District of Will County. In this case, the university and the FPDWC have created several lasting relationships resulting in field training and service opportunities for students and well-trained volunteers for the preserves.

“The Forest Preserve District of Will County has been a valued partner of the Recreation and Sport Management program for many years,” explains Recreation and Sport Management professor and department chairman, Dr. Sydney Sklar. “We appreciate the opportunities for USF students to support the mission of the district while gaining practical experience in the recreation profession. The FPDWC benefits the community by offering high quality open spaces, outdoor recreation opportunities, and educational programs. We are grateful for the chance to contribute to this end in any small way we can.”

“We are pleased to recognize the Recreation and Sport Management [program] of the University of St. Francis for its continuing contributions to the Forest Preserve District of Will County,” says Volunteer Services Supervisor, Renee Gauchat. “This relationship has evolved into multiple recurring service days organized by the university. We are very glad to be a resource to the students and vice versa,” says Gauchat.

The relationship between the university and the FPDWC began with the Recreation and Sport Management students who volunteered with the forest preserves regularly for field experience and invasive plant removal.

After the success of the Recreation and Sport Management service days, USF began incorporating the FPDWC into freshman orientation service learning, an employee day of service observed on Holy Thursday and most recently, service opportunities for area high school students through the Pay It Forward program. Pay It Forward connects area high school students with the opportunity to earn service hours over a four-day period in the summer and introduces the university core values of service, compassion, integrity and respect to participants.

“At the university, our mission really is about helping our students to be transformed into leaders who will be of service in their community,” said Imler.

While students get credit for volunteer work as freshmen, by the time they are seniors, they are contributing because of an intrinsic desire to help, she explained.

“Our hope is that they would go forth with values that are related to care for creation and peacemaking,” she said. “The Forest Preserve District gives them an opportunity for both of those.”

Founded in 1920, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., is a Catholic, Franciscan university that serves 4,100 students nationwide; offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are more than 48,000 USF alumni across the globe.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.