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Students to perform service in seventh annual Back the Bend Day

| Thursday, March 31, 2016

Notre Dame students will venture into South Bend to participate in community service this Saturday, as part of the seventh annual “Back the Bend Day.” 

Rohan Andresen, director of the department for community relations, said Back the Bend is an option for students to serve in the South Bend community and is particularly geared toward those whose extracurricular activities do not typically include service.

“Back the Bend is an annual day of community service and civil engagement,” Andresen said. “It’s a really good opportunity for students who aren’t engaged in clubs that normally do service to get the opportunity to do at least some service once a year.”

Previously called CommUniversity Day, the name was changed last year to Back the Bend in recognition of the 150th anniversary of South Bend. This year, Andresen said there was a much bigger push to partner with South Bend organizations and include community members who are not students.

“The role that Notre Dame has played with South Bend has really evolved since the beginning of Notre Dame’s time,” he said. “The stage we’re at now is moving from a point where we only did community service to having a partnership with South Bend. I think that working alongside members of the community not only shows that we’re supportive in the old-fashioned sense that we used to, but we’re also eager to partner with them and work alongside them to make it a better community for both of us.”

As of Tuesday, approximately 150 people had signed up to participate, according to Andresen. He said this number should climb to anywhere between 250 and 400 participants by Saturday. To accommodate so many people, the organizers, including many community partners like the Robinson Center, planned a wide variety of projects.

“The most popular ones and the ones students really flock to that are actually repeating from years past are murals at the Robinson Center and at Colfax Bridge, painting fire hydrants and art crosswalks, which are just crosswalks that are designed creatively,” Andresen said. “There’s one with piano keys, a Notre Dame-themed one.

“Then there are ones that are more like manual labor, like working at Unity Gardens and doing whatever gardening stuff needs to be done, as well as restoring 1905 house. That’s put on Indiana Landmarks, and it’s an old Queen Anne house that students are going to help restore.”

In conjunction with Back the Bend, director of campus ministry Ethan Muehlstein organized the Michiana Interfaith Crawl, also on Saturday from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. The Crawl will provide transportation to several places of worship in the Michiana area.

“[Muehlstein] approached me about having a joint event because it matches up perfectly with seeing the other parts of South Bend and civic engagement,” Andresen said. “I think it’s going to be a really great complement to the normal projects we usually do.”

Muehlstein said in an email that the Interfaith Crawl is aimed to “establish new relationships with many faith communities in South Bend. ”

“The interfaith crawl is paired with Back the Bend because it is getting students out and into the community, which is the focus of this annual event,” he said. “Each year we hope to establish a positive relationship with South Bend. Being a religious hub, this interfaith crawl allows students to really immerse in other cultures so close to campus.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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