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Students to help rebuild community

Kate Gales | Friday, April 16, 2004

Despite the warm weather, Christmas is in the air for students, city leaders and members of the South Bend community.Christmas in April/Rebuil-ding Together, an annual cooperative effort to improve a low-income neighborhood in South Bend, will take place Saturday.”It’s a full day [of] service where we go out and fix up people’s houses,” said Karsten Steinhauser, the student coordinator of the program. “[We do] the most interesting and oddest types of jobs to improve … houses for people who are unable to afford it or are physically unable to do it themselves.”According to faculty adviser Darrell Paulson, around 900 students have signed up for this year’s program – down from previous years, where over 1,000 students would reserve spots.”We’ve had a little bit of a drop this year in student interest,” Steinhauser said. “We’re still trying to figure out if it’s the way we publicized it … or if it’s because it’s the same day as the MCATs.”According to Paulsen, a number of students do not show up on the day of the project, perhaps because of the 7 a.m. start time. Nonetheless, he said the event becomes a community effort and is not exclusive to Notre Dame students. “We work with a whole community in South Bend,” Paulsen said. “There is a whole group – on April 3 all the skilled laborers [went] to 26 houses in the South Bend community in one neighborhood that the city commissioner picked. [Saturday], we’re going to go with unskilled volunteers [the students] and do things like paint, clean out houses, rake yards … basically make it really nice.”This year, students will travel to Rum Village in southwest South Bend to help the residents of the neighborhood.In addition to professionals who donate supplies, Notre Dame Food Services provides breakfast, a boxed lunch and a celebration dinner for the volunteers.Paulsen praised the event because it is a community endeavor.”Most people do it just because,” Steinhauser said. “I think it’s in the spirit of Notre Dame students to be very involved with service.”However, he said, “I know for a fact that people do it for service hours too.”A lot of people don’t have the time to put in [to service] on a regular basis. They would really rather go for one big opportunity like this.”Steinhauser himself has been involved in the program in an indispensable way.”He’s been doing this for about three years, he’s been great,” Paulsen said. “He’s very instrumental in getting students involved and has taken a great leadership role.”