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SMC partners with Rebuilding Together

Christin Kloski | Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Through the non-profit partnership Rebuilding Together, Saint Mary’s students are working with economically disadvantaged homeowners in the South Bend area to transform their homes.

Olivia Critchlow, assistant director for the Office of Civic and Social Engagement, said homeowners apply to the program and are chosen based on their need.

She said Saint Mary’s has volunteered with Rebuilding Together for eight years and will donate $3,500 to remodeling one of the 25 houses that were chosen this year.

“This becomes the Saint Mary’s student experience,” she said. “The students have hands-on opportunities to see a complete transformation.”

Critchlow said this year’s home rehabilitation will be in South Bend’s River Park neighborhood and provides an opportunity for the South Bend community to serve together.

“Students will be doing the unskilled labor, which includes painting, light landscaping and other exterior work,” Critchlow said.

Skilled laborers will work on the houses the weekend before the student volunteers do, Critchlow said. Plumbers, electricians and roofers will attend to major details, while students work on minor details.

Students do much of the manual labor required to remodel the homes of single-parent families and elderly individuals in order to ease some of their burdens, Critchlow said. The rebuilding gives particular relief to families in a tough economic time.  

“The experience will also give students an opportunity to meet members of the South Bend community and hear their stories,” Critchlow said. “It is an incredible feeling of accomplishment and community for all involved.”

Critchlow said Saint Mary’s Office for Civic and Social Engagement will collect donations for constructing the sponsored house.

According to a press release from Critchlow, the South Bend Medical Foundation will also host a blood drive April 11 to raise funds. For every unit of blood collected, she said the Foundation will donate $5 to the effort.

Volunteering with Rebuilding Together is different than participating in other volunteer opportunities, Critchlow said.

“In the rebuilding project, an entire group works together to work on a house in the morning and see its complete transformation by the time that they all leave in the afternoon,” she said.

Critchlow said although the volunteer experience is short, it leaves a feeling of accomplishment.

“Unlike other volunteer experiences, where volunteers wait for a few months to see the outcome, the Rebuilding Together project gives students the opportunity to see the outcome within a few hours,” Critchlow said. “They get to see a face-lift on the house that they’ve been working on for half of a day.”

According to Critchlow’s press release, 80 percent of Saint Mary’s students participate in service before graduating.

“It is through service events like Rebuilding Together, that bring our students together with those in need in the community to connect in very real and tangible ways, that truly help to make our world a better place,” she said. 

Critchlow said the house rebuilding will take place April 21 and students who want to volunteer should sign up by April 18.