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Service unites campus, city

Carolina Wilson | Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s will join the South Bend community for their fifth annual CommUniversity Day on Saturday.

This annual day of service unites local college students and community members in an effort to complete various volunteering projects around the city. Freshman Adam Henderson, one of the event planners, said CommUniversity Day fosters a positive relationship between Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and South Bend.

“CommUniversity Day provides a unique opportunity for students to get off campus and volunteer, encouraging many students to go into South Bend for a good cause,” Henderson said. “It shows that we are committed to making the area a better place.”

The annual CommUniversity tradition began in 2009, Henderson said. The Robinson Community Learning Center, the City of South Bend and the directors of community relations and social concerns in Notre Dame’s student government decided involving students and community members in volunteering projects would increase the positive contact between the campus and the broader community.

The day-long event at first involved only a few hundred people, but last year, participation reached approximately 750 volunteers, Henderson said.
Senior Kelsey Eckenrode, a member of the CommUniversity Day planning team, said the group hopes the event will extend to a larger variety of participants this year.

“Although Notre Dame students make up the majority of student volunteers, we are putting a large emphasis on getting students from other area colleges to participate as well,” she said.  “Students from Saint Mary’s College, Ivy Tech and [Indiana University South Bend] are all expected to participate this year. We also expect more community members to take part this year than in year’s past.”

 There are 35 different projects lined up this year, including painting fire hydrants, preparing gardens, cleaning up parks, marking storm drains to discourage pollutio, and repainting crosswalkw, Eckenrode said.

“The day will begin with a Homeward Bound Walk/5K Run at the Robinson Community Learning Center, which benefits local agencies that help the homeless,” she said.  “There will also be a bus tour of the Notre Dame campus for interested community members.”

Volunteer projects willl span the late morning and afternoon, Eckenrode said. The day will culminate in a picnic at 3 p.m. at the Robinson Community Learning Center for those involved.

Although the city government suggests most of the projects, Eckenrode said other community and university groups are encouraged to submit specific project proposals.

 The ideal volunteer projects pair certain jobs with organizations expressing interest in those areas, Henderson said.

“This [partnering] is a good way to get people to participate in the CommUniversity Day,” he said. “People are more likely to participate and have a better time if they work with an organization they are familiar with and that their friends are a part of,  one of the goals of the service projects is to promote increased student participation in the South Bend community, Henderson said.  

Eckenrode said  CommUniversity Day enables students to give back to South Bend.

“It is intended to be a celebration of our community,” she said.