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400 students improve 23 South Bend homes

Emma Driscoll | Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Around 400 students woke up early last Saturday to help make a difference in the South Bend community through the city’s Rebuilding Together St. Joseph County project.

Rebuilding Together is a not-for-profit partnership between local government and business volunteers as well as other nonprofit organizations in the area to help refurbish homes and neighborhoods in the South Bend area, according to the project’s Web site.

This year the project worked to improve 23 homes in the Northwest side of South Bend, said Darrell Paulsen, Campus Ministry assistant director for retreats and national programs.

Due to rainy weather, volunteers were not able to work on outdoor painting projects, but accomplished a lot of interior work such as washing down homes and cleaning garages and exterior work such as raking yards and overall landscaping, Paulsen said.

Over 600 students registered to participate but weather conditions limited the need for volunteers and some students did not show up, Paulsen said. He added that some dorms formed large groups to participate in the project.

“Cavanaugh, Welsh Family and Zahm were very well represented,” Paulsen said. “I’d say those three were some big leaders.”

Other groups on campus got involved in the project as well. The Office of Information Technology formed a team of staff members to participate, Paulsen said. Food Services also provided boxed lunches for volunteers and catered dinner for the celebration party at the end of the day.

Students from Saint Mary’s also participated, Paulsen said. The College sponsored the refurbishment of two houses, he said.

The nature of Rebuilding Together makes it a manageable way for students to get involved in service, Paulsen said.

“It really fits in students’ schedules,” he said. “It’s a one day commitment, it’s something they can do with their friends, and it’s an opportunity to give back to the South Bend community in a real concrete way.”

Graduate student Jonathan Ireland, who participated in the program Saturday, agreed that Rebuilding Together allowed students to be both social and serve the community.

“It’s a good opportunity to spend time with friends and, at the same time, represent Notre Dame in the South Bend community,” Ireland said. “It was good to join 600 people who all had the same sort of mission and desire to help.”

Ireland said meeting and being able to talk with the woman who lives in the house that he worked on enhanced his experience with Rebuilding Together.

“The lady I worked for was a pleasure,” he said. “[Homeowners] have to be in the house, and you get to meet them and some people were open to talking about what they do.”

Rebuilding Together takes place the Saturday before the Blue and Gold game every spring and students interested in helping to plan next year’s event can become involved through Campus Ministry’s Web site, Paulsen said.