Virtual volunteer fair results in project benefiting area veterans

Students from Ringling College create greeting cards for veterans served by Goodwill Manasota

Published Friday, November 13, 2020

SARASOTA, FL – While the coronavirus pandemic has impacted nearly every area of life – and mostly not for the better – it has not resulted in a loss of compassion. As a recent collaboration of Ringling College and Goodwill Manasota shows, our community’s prolific desire and willingness to help others has remained “virtually” unchanged.

In order to keep students connected with volunteer opportunities, Ringling College of Art and Design adapted its traditional community service-related freshman orientation activities to include its first-ever virtual volunteer fair. Six area nonprofits participated in the Zoom meeting, which took place during the college’s orientation week in early September, discussing their missions as well as pitching volunteer projects on which the more than 100 attending students could be of assistance.

Upon hearing from Margie Genter, Goodwill Manasota’s vice president of mission services, 10 Ringling students joined Genter in a separate “meeting room” to implement the project: creating cards for veterans. Over the course of the session, Genter and the students chatted about their lives and how college was going so far. By the end of the session, the students had beautiful cards to display; some of them included their school P.O. box address on the card in case the recipient wanted a pen pal.

“While this year has proven to be unique, I wanted to make sure that I still offered local nonprofit partner support,” said Susan Saulnier, Ringling College’s coordinator of student volunteerism and service-learning. “In a time when physically going to help someone is restricted, we are lucky to have technology to help us stay connected. But there is something special about a physical letter or a card that helps us connect in a personal way. We hope that through ‘thank you’ and ‘thinking of you’ cards, we will brighten someone’s day.”

As part of Ringling College’s Orientation Program for first-year students, half of a day is dedicated to service projects with nonprofit partners in the community. Saulnier notes that for many of these students, this is their first time in Florida and, sometimes, the United States. She says that the community service projects help students to become better acclimated to their new off-campus community.

Saulnier hosted two follow-up card-making events and continued to collect cards beyond the initial session with Genter; she delivered the resulting cards to Goodwill’s Veterans Services Program office in early November. The cards were distributed to veterans served by Goodwill during its Veterans Day Celebration on November 11.

“It is truly heartwarming to see young people who are so committed to helping others, even as their own college experiences are being negatively impacted by the pandemic,” said Genter. “I extend my thanks and appreciation to Susan and Ringling College for enabling area nonprofits to benefit from the volunteerism of their students as well as working to inspire a lifetime of community service.”

For more about Goodwill, go to or call 941-355-2721.

PHOTO ID: Susan Saulnier (left) of Ringling College with students Sara Giovanello, Chloe Abate, Jared Lewis and Matthew Morgan as they drop off cards for area veterans

About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit or call 941-355-2721