Mount Aloysius Digital Grotto Helps American Rescue Workers

Posted on: February 21, 2014

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Digital Grotto Service Grp

Mount Aloysius College’s Digital Grotto Group joins Michelle McGowan, agency volunteer and public relations director, at the American Rescue Worker’s Hollidaysburg headquarters. Shown here, from left, are: MBA Student Luke Fragello; Emily Grove, recent Mount Aloysius graduate; Jeff Sunseri, IT instructor; Ms. McGowan; Robert Walsh, recent graduate; MAC Student Marley Saxton; MBA Student Sean Steffy; MAC Student Liz Grace; and Assistant Director of Communications for Mount Aloysius College Sam Wagner.

Cresson, Pa. – Community service comes in many varieties.  You give what you have and help out however you can. That tradition of service is woven deep into the fabric of life at Mount Aloysius College and for a new club at the College the gift was time, talent and much creativity.

The Digital Grotto Group is one of 100 student clubs on campus.  It was formed by students attracted to the video and digital graphics capabilities of the College’s Communications Department.  Named both for its location and its capabilities, The Digital Grotto is a hi-tech assembly of video and graphic arts equipment housed in the basement of the century old Alumni Hall—a 1902 gift from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Schwab.  When Michelle McGowan of the American Rescue Workers of Hollidaysburg sent out a call for help, her friends at Mount Aloysius College responded with a gift of heart, soul and video.

Moderated by Mr. Sam Wagner, assistant director of communications at Mount Aloysius College, The Digital Grotto Group mobilized itself around the mission, history and needs of American Rescue Workers.  MBA student Luke Fragello serves as Digital Grotto Group president.  He managed but the logistics and creative aspects of the service project.

Michelle McGowan, who serves as volunteer and public relations director for the American Rescue Worker is a graduate of Mount Aloysius College.  She is also a regional star as the linchpin persona, Lady Misrule who has reigned over the annual Christmastime Madrigal for nearly all of the show’s 43-year existence.  Her annual dramatic and comedic efforts are considerable—yet another testament to the tradition of community service at Mount Aloysius.  She has been giving back in this way to her Alma Mater all these years.

Mount Aloysius grad student Luke Fragello explained the process of helping out this local nonprofit caring agency. “Once the project received approval, we created a script and planned shots of the daily processes and the actual work that takes place at the American Rescue Workers,” he said. “Michele McGowan is a consummate professional and completely understood our approach in creating the video.”

Sam Wagner wanted the Group to create a video that was short enough to hold viewer’s attention, yet comprehensive enough to offer the agency a tool it could use in several ways.  “Michelle needed to tell the story of her agency, describing the ongoing needs of a seven-day a week food pantry serving real neighbors in need in several local communities,” he explained.  “Our students and staff spent several hours actually going to the Hollidaysburg facility and stocking shelves, loading trucks, cleaning and doing whatever needed to be done.  That activity,” said Mr. Wagner, “formed the `B-roll’ of the video.  Interspersed around that B-roll where clips of American Rescue professionals describing various aspects of their agency.”

Wagner explained that the piece—which totaled just over five minutes long—was organized around the goals of telling what the agency did; who it helped; describing service components of counseling, homeless assistance, various seasonal services, and finally address the needs of volunteer and donor recruitment.  Regarding the various components of the project, Wagner said that the students handled on-site filming and interviews as well writing the script and editing the digital video.  “The project involved six students and two staff members and took about 70 man-hours from start to completion.”

Michelle McGowan talked about the impact of the Mount Aloysius Digital Grotto video.

“The video has been a great help here at ARW,” she said. “We still use it and it always gets a great response.”

Ms. McGowan noted that she uses the Mount Aloysius Digital Grotto Group video county-wide when making presentations because it offers a fantastic overview of what the American Rescue Workers do that people really don’t know about. “Viewers get a positive, engaging picture of all the services available and how they can help.  The visual aid is always more meaningful.  Even with people who already know of us; we’re finding that they didn’t realize all we do in their community.

“We have the video on our agency’s home page and our Facebook page, and we showed it at our National Chapters’ meeting last year.  The Mount Aloysius piece got a great response.  The other chapters are jealous and couldn’t get over the professional work and the fact that it was done as a student service project.”

Ms. McGowan said that she will continue to use the video again this year as a tool to reach out to the region’s business community.  “This year’s challenge is a building,” she said. “Our space is limited and growing smaller daily, but the client list growing.  We don’t have enough space for storage but we do what we can.  I’m planning on using the video as a major part of the presentation I’m putting together for businesses that we hope will be potential sponsors for a new building.  With the latest cuts in food stamps, the demand for our services is sure to increase,” she said.

The agency’s video can be seen on their web site at:

The Mount Aloysius College community service during the summer and fall of 2013 totaled nearly 8,000 hours.  During that time various college groups completed 222 service projects throughout the southern Allegheny Mountain region as well as projects like the recent New Orleans service trip that touched people in other parts of the country and around the world in areas like Haiti and Guyana.  Mount Aloysius College service opportunities seek solutions to problems in such diverse areas as economic opportunity, education, environment, health and wellness, veterans and deployed personnel.  One hundred percent of Mount Aloysius College students perform community service as part of their educational experience.

Aerial Photo of the Mount Aloysius Campus