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Shamrock Series offers volunteer opportunities

Katie Sisk | Thursday, October 3, 2013


Fans will travel to Dallas this weekend to cheer for the Irish in this year’s Shamrock Series game against Arizona State, and a group of Notre Dame alumni and friends plan to make a lasting impact on a Texas charity while they are in town.

Alumni Association President Erin O’Connor French and spiritual director Angie Appleby Purcell collaborated with Catholic Charities USA to bring volunteers to the Assessment Center of Tarrant County in Fort Worth, Texas, Purcell said. Participants will renovate the building and support the children served at the Center by painting walls, building picnic tables and offering monetary donations. 

Purcell said the Alumni Association organizes volunteer events annually to coincide with Shamrock Series games and Notre Dame’s bowl games to show generosity to the extended community beyond campus. 

“Other folks, other teams and other people may be gathering for the social aspect, which of course we are too, but for Notre Dame it is very important for us to give back to the local community, particularly to those who are needy,” Purcell said.

When the Notre Dame community travels together, they hope to leave the place in a better state than when they arrived, French said. 

“This is a way for us to make a long-lasting impact … and make it worth-while for them to host Notre Dame and to leave a positive impact on those communities,” French said.

The beneficiary of this project, the Assessment Center of Tarrant County, serves as a home for children under the age of 17 who have been taken from their parents for child welfare concerns, French said. 

“Its primary goal is to not only house these children in a safe environment, but it is a very holistic approach to their education, to their psychological well-being, to their health, to their safety, with the goal being for these children to be reunited with their families,” Purcell said.

In line with this holistic approach, while the volunteers work on the building, the children will receive tours of Dallas Stadium, and many will attend the game as well, she said.

“With children whose lives are really in turmoil and have faced far more obstacles and challenges in life than they should, we are hoping for an afternoon or weekend in which they can just be kids again and not have any worries other than just to have fun,” Purcell said.

French said the actual physical effort of the volunteers would go towards improving the comfort and atmosphere of the children’s temporary home. 

“What we’re trying to do is make it less clinical, less sterile and more home-like for these children,” she said. “It’s a tumultuous time for them, and a lot of them are quite young … so we’re going to paint and make it more home-like. We hope to do some planting work out in the outside of the building [and] we will work on the recess play areas for them depending on the number of volunteers.”

Purcell said members of the Notre Dame community who cannot travel to Texas could still participate by donating $25 to sponsor a “welcome kit” for an incoming child. 

“Children who are coming to this center usually are coming with little or not much with them, so the welcome kits that the center offers children as they come is all that the children have to start with,” she said. “That includes … all the things that a child both literally needs but also some support and something fun that they may not have coming with them.” 

“It’s kind of a two-tiered approach for how to engage our alumni community … both physical labor-wise but also in terms of donating for the welcome kit.”

The Alumni Association chose the Assessment Center because of its affiliation with Catholic Charities USA, with whom Notre Dame shares a connection as a partner and collaborator, Purcell said. 

“We just thought it would be a great opportunity not only to serve the children who are themselves worthy of our time and energy, but also because we want to strengthen and unify our partnership as two pretty important Catholic institutions to help the common good,” Purcell said. 

Any students traveling to the game who want to volunteer may sign up in the Worthington Renaissance Hotel, from which the Alumni Association will provide transportation, or show up at the Assessment Center of Tarrant County where the volunteering will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday.