Championship game draws Irish faithful
Aubrey Butts | Wednesday, January 16, 2013
While the Notre Dame and Alabama football teams prepared for their faceoff in the BCS National Championship, squads of volunteers from the opposing communities set rivalries aside to plant a community garden in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami.
Katie Rutledge, service programs manager for the Notre Dame Alumni Association, said the project originated from the desire of the student and alumni community to demonstrate the Christian values of charity and gratitude.
“It puts a proper perspective on life,” Rutledge said. “Talking to the volunteers, [University President Fr. John] Jenkins said that the project was a victory for both sides. This rings true, especially now after the loss. The service project and impact will be a win for the community and those who spent time in service during their Miami trips.”
Planting season only began recently, so volunteers could not immediately plant a full garden in Overtown. However, the timing did not stop the group from leaving a mark in the community.
“Only a few vegetables were planted in the beds – lots of parsley,” Rutledge said. “However, a subset of volunteers planted seedlings into tiny vessels, and once the seedlings are strong enough, they will be transplanted to the raised beds. We also planted flowers to beautify the lot. Roots in the City procured red and white and blue and yellow flowers to represent the two schools.”
Around 300 Notre Dame and Alabama fans, alumni and students participated in the planting activities Sunday in addition to the volunteers provided by Roots in the City, the Miami-based organization dedicated to community development, healthy eating initiatives and inner-city beautification as stated on the non-profit’s website.
“We had a lot of help from guests at the Camillus House, a shelter which also partners with Roots for a work program,” Rutledge said. “Many of the men work in the gardens on-site at Camillus, and I think their presence added to the experience for everyone. The men were very welcoming and understanding of people like me without green thumbs. They did a lot of backbreaking work, moving 3000 cement blocks and more.”
Inspired by the service initiative’s success, Rutledge said she hopes the alumni organization will continue its partnership with Roots in the City.
“The CEO of Camillus House is a Notre Dame graduate, so he was very supportive of the project,” she said. “We hope to start a [Summer Service Learning Program] for students at the Camillus House.”
While the event required extensive planning, Rutledge said the opportunity to have an impact of the community made it worthwhile.
“We knew that we would have a great turnout,” she said. “Keeping 300 people busy for three hours – especially Domers who always come ready to work – takes a lot of preparation.”
This year’s urban garden initiative continues an Alumni Association tradition to sponsor a service project preceding bowl games, Rutledge explained. She said she hopes the service work will continue going forward regardless of where Notre Dame finds itself in the postseason.
“It’s an honor to be in charge of providing service opportunities for alumni at these big athletic events,” she said. “There’s an obvious desire to serve among alumni and students, as evidenced by the turnout.”
Contact Aubrey Butts at firstname.lastname@example.org