Students highlight Rebuilding Together
Nicole Caratas | Monday, March 23, 2015
In the latest installment of Saint Mary’s Justice Fridays, two students from the Office for Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE), Markie Harrison and Maggie Carswell, presented “Rebuilding Together: Community in Action,” a program aiding in the rehabilitation of low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners in the South Bend area.
The OSCE serves as liaison between the College and students for volunteer opportunities and works to promote justice and compassion through these opportunities, Harrison said.
Carswell brought to attention the College’s mission statement, which states, “the College is an academic community where women develop their talents and prepare to make a difference in the world.” She said the mission of the OSCE is to fulfill this by having various volunteer programs for students to join, including Rebuilding Together.
“Every year, we will send some Saint Mary’s students into the city of South Bend to help rehabilitate some homes,” Carswell said.
Carswell said volunteers clear out and rebuild low-income homes to help stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods at no cost to the owners.
Harrison said the St. Joseph’s County chapter of Rebuilding Together sets aside a day for volunteers to clear out and rebuild houses every spring. This includes any repairs the house may need and making the house livable so the homeowners have a healthy and safe place to live.
Harrison said she remembered how rewarding it was to work on a veteran’s house for last year’s Rebuilding Together day.
“I think we spent about six hours that day helping,” Harrison said. “He was so grateful. He was so enjoyable to be around, and you could really see the change and the impact we made in just a few hours. It was a really amazing opportunity.”
Carswell said the volunteering opportunity allowed her and other Saint Mary’s students to assist members of their community with different needs.
“We helped out a very elderly lady who was a hoarder,” Carswell said. “Her situation was very difficult. The electricity had been turned off; she could barely move around her house. She bathed in the cold sink water. It wasn’t a healthy situation.”
Carswell said just one day of giving made a remarkable difference in the hoarder’s life.
“We helped her clean out her home,” Carswell said. “It was amazing to see how within a day how much her home had cleared out. She was able to finally sit on her couch or move around the house without tripping on things.”
Carswell said she was particularly moved by the response of one woman, Lynn Joyce Dolson after volunteers came to work at her house.
“I helped her paint her house and scrape wallpaper down,” Carswell said. “I remember her saying, ‘I’m going to sleep in my house tonight so I can wake up and see my house.’ She was really grateful.”
Carswell said the day’s impact was immeasurable for many recipients of help during the day of Rebuilding Together.
“I remember reading one story about one of the homeowners,” Carswell said. “The husband had to go to work for the day so they worked on his house. When he came back from work, he actually drove by his house because he didn’t recognize it. That’s how much of a transformation we can make.”
Carswell said this year’s Rebuilding Together plans to fix-up 19 homes, including fixing 16 roofs and replacing seven furnaces. It will take place April 11.