As horses grazed in the distance, a group of volunteers labored to remove several yards of fencing surrounding a pasture at Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center in Loxahatchee on Monday.
About a dozen students from Palm Beach Atlantic University joined other workers in spending part of the Martin Luther King holiday pulling down metal fencing and pulling up wooden posts. The fence needed to be moved to make way for a new covered arena that will be built at the center, which allows children and adults with disabilities an opportunity to ride horses as therapy.
Elementary education major Debbie Levinsky, who led the student team, is a frequent volunteer at Vinceremos throughout the school year. She said she is looking forward to seeing the covered arena, which has been in the planning stages for some time, finally become a reality.
"I'm going to be here watching it as it happens, but to be a part of it is really cool," said Levinsky, a junior.
Levinsky was one of about 130 PBA students who worked on service projects at nine locations across Palm Beach County on Monday as part of the Martin Luther King Challenge, organized through the University's Workship program. For the past 10 years, PBA students have spent the holiday in service to others.
Classes were not in session on Monday, and University faculty and staff members joined the students at several of the work sites.
"Martin Luther King really taught us how to serve," said junior Chris Hernandez, a journalism major who volunteered at Vinceremos. "At the end of the day, I feel like we're really just called to serve."
This is the second year that PBA students have volunteered at the therapeutic riding center during the King holiday. Barbara Drury, the center's volunteer coordinator, said the extra hands were a huge help. "It's nice to get this many people to come out together as a group," she said.
PBA teams also volunteered with such agencies as Habitat for Humanity, Quantum House, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve, Palm Beach Maritime Museum and Lourdes-Noreen McKeen Residence.
At Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, students helped to organize a block party for neighborhood children.
In Boynton Beach, a team helped prepare two plots that eventually will become vegetable gardens at the men's campus operated by The Lord's Place. One of the group's main tasks involved dividing and spreading five cubic feet of compost that had been donated to The Lord's Place by the Solid Waste Authority.
The campus provides emergency and transitional housing for up to 50 homeless men. The residents will be responsible for planting and maintaining the garden, which could include some fruits as well as vegetables, said Maurice Hall, case manager for the re-entry program at the men's campus.
"We're always looking for ways to try to bring the men together," Hall said. "We try to make it a positive environment of cooperation. We find that if they help each other, it helps them to grow too."
A resident who assisted the volunteers on Monday said he is looking forward to gardening this spring. He and the other men are still deciding what to plant, he said.
Digging through the earth with a hoe, student Kimberly Clarke found the manual labor to be a satisfying way to spend a day off from class.
"It's something different, and I don't mind helping out," said Clarke, a freshman who is majoring in secondary education. "It's for a good cause."