The animals may not have noticed, but students from Volunteer UCF helped spruce up the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens on Thursday by pressure cleaning walkways, mulching flower beds and painting new lines to reserve parking spaces for Wounded Warrior visitors to the Sanford attraction.
Sydney Jalali, a junior from Jacksonville majoring in event management, is a regular volunteer with the student group, but was especially eager to join the project at the zoo because of the Wounded Warrior component.
“I do pageants and military support is my platform,” said the current Miss Manatee County as she and Sarasota junior Gabrielle Leonard painted bright purple lines designating the parking spots for disabled veterans. “My dad was in the Navy and I have two brothers in the Army.”
She said service members are often overlooked on the home front, so this was a way she could thank them.
Donte Lewis, a junior marketing major from Miami, said he regularly volunteers with the group because it is important to give back to the community. He spent the morning hauling and spreading mulch on the zoo grounds.
“So many people have helped me get to where I am, and so I want to help others,” Lewis said.
Fifteen students signed on for the day’s projects, said Brionna Shanae Johnson, one of the student coordinators at Volunteer UCF.
“We did a project at the zoo a few years ago. I was a volunteer that time and wanted to work with them again,” said Johnson, a senior majoring in health services administration.
The organization is dedicated to promoting community service and education on various social issues. Volunteers work with more than 200 community agencies, such as helping with environmental cleanups, children’s advocacy programs, Habitat for Humanity, food-sharing programs, tutoring and others. During the 2015-16 academic year, Volunteer UCF students logged in about 17,500 hours of service.
The group’s 10th annual Knights Give Back day of service will be held Oct. 22. To find out more about the event and to sign up to volunteer, click here.