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Notre Dame students get inspired to serve

Molly Madden | Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Inspire, a newly conceived service club at Notre Dame, hopes to fill an apparent void at the University and create a line of direct communication between Notre Dame students and non-profit organizations on campus and across the country.

“Basically we want to support Notre Dame students who are interested in becoming a part of or starting their own non-profit,” club president Kathryn Colby said. “We want to be a resource for these students, whether that means helping them with business efficiency or setting them up with an internship in an alum’s non-profit organization.”

Colby, a junior, said while the club’s official status is new, the idea formed two years ago when she helped organize a charity gala for a student’s non-profit organization here on campus.

“[Junior] Dan Jacobs and I organized an Oscar Night Gala our freshman year in which all the proceeds went to the Eyes on Africa Foundation, a non-profit here on campus,” she said. “We had a huge turnout and found out that there were a lot of Notre Dame students with non-profits of their own. Dan and I got to talking and decided that we could maybe take our idea and change it into a student group.”

Jacobs, a photographer for The Observer, said the Oscar Night Gala two years ago opened his eyes to how limited the resources were for non-profit organizations on campus.

“We just noticed that there was a huge gap with Notre Dame and the non-profit sector as a whole,” Jacobs, the Inspire vice president, said. “We saw that need and decided that we could become that network that acts as the bridge between students and the non-profits.”

Colby said when she looked further into this apparent gap in non-profit resources on campus, she was surprised by what she found.

“There just wasn’t really anything, not even an organization of the alumni who have non-profits,” she said. “I was kind of shocked since Notre Dame is so much about service.”

This lack of information and the immense interest they had found at the Oscar Night Gala led Colby and Jacobs to begin discussing forming a club.

“We had the idea of this go-to network for support and inspiration for students interested and involved with the non-profit sector,” Jacobs said.

Two years later, that idea has transformed into Inspire, which holds its first official meeting tonight in LaFortune Student Center. While the club is a recent addition to campus, Jacobs is confident that Inspire will be a success.

“Things are really coming together,” he said. “We have a lot of devoted people involved and because of that I think that Inspire will hopefully expand into the future.”

The club already has plans for two events to take place this year that would be educational and charitable.

“Ideally, I would like to do a seminar first semester and a charity event like the Oscar gala next semester,” Colby said. “Eventually, I would like us to have an event each month.”

Colby has made sure that there are plenty of resources for the club members to consult should they decide to start their own organization.

“I’ve been working closely with Tom Harvey, who is the administrator of the Non-Profit Master’s Degree Program at Mendoza [College of Business], the alumni and non-profit organizations in the South Bend area,” she said. “We have a lot of people from different areas helping us so I think that club has the potential to become large and campus-wide.”

While she has already found an abundance of resources for students, Colby is still working on bringing more people into the club for consultation and advice.

“I don’t want someone thinking ‘I’m 20 years old, I want to start a non-profit, how the hell do I do that’,” she said. “I’m trying to get a go-to guy at the law school who can help with the law aspects of setting up these organizations and some grad students have contacted me as well. We’re continually branching out.”

Colby said most importantly, she hopes Inspire can do for students just what the title says – inspire.

“I want the club to inspire Notre Dame kids to go out and make the world a better place but in their own unique way,” she said. “Whether that be on a local, national or international level I just want them to have the opportunity to do it.”