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Notre Dame prepares for day of service in South Bend community

| Friday, April 26, 2019

Over 300 Domers are preparing to spend a day breaking out of the Notre Dame bubble.

On Saturday, students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College will serve in 17 volunteer sites across South Bend. Back the Bend, an effort between student government and South Bend community partners, will allow students to get away from their college campuses and engage with the surrounding South Bend community.

Courtesy of Fritz Schemel
Students participate in Back the Bend last year, painting murals at the Robinson Community Learning Center.

The tri-campus community, along with volunteers from other local colleges, will devote four hours on Saturday to planting trees, spreading mulch, painting murals and completing several other projects across South Bend. Aaron Benavides, sophomore and the director of faith and service for student government, said the service day allows students to bridge Notre Dame to the surrounding South Bend neighborhoods.

Editor’s Note: Benavides is a former News Writer for The Observer.

“One of the really unique missions that Back the Bend has had since the beginning has been the whole idea of connecting students with the South Bend community,” Benavides said. “Oftentimes, we feel like we live within these walls at Notre Dame. We never really get out of our bubble.”

Benavides said over 315 volunteers have already signed up for Back the Bend, and he expects over 350 students to participate in the service projects.

Fritz Schemel, the director of community outreach and engagement for Notre Dame Student Government, said he is excited for his second outing with Back the Bend. Last April, Schemel participated in the “Keep the Lead Away” project, an effort to spread mulch and prevent lead exposure at homes in the Near Northwest Neighborhood of South Bend. This year, Schemel is leading a group of students from Dunne Hall in the same project.

“Something that I find really cool about it is, yes, it’s really great that students are going into the community to engage with these community partners, but I’ve also noticed that dorms or different clubs will come together for service projects,” Schemel said. “They’ll group together, and it’s definitely a bonding event for those people too.”

Other projects include planting trees at Fremont Park and painting murals at the Robinson Community Learning Center. Andy Kostielney, the assistant manager at the Robinson Center, said he has worked to foster the relationship between the Robinson Center and student volunteers.

“One of the things we do in the community is we’re a bridge between the University and the Northeast Neighborhood,” Kostielney said. “It’s great to see students go out and get to see parts of South Bend that they might not have seen before.”

To plan 17 volunteer projects, Benavides and Schemel worked with several community partners across South Bend. The student government representatives met with their partners on Friday mornings at the Robinson Center.

“I hadn’t heard a lot about these other community partners before, and so getting to interact with them and getting exposed to them and learning about their missions has been really informative for me, and I hope students will be able to get that out of Back the Bend as well,” Benavides said.

The day of service begins with registration at 9 a.m. at Irish Green, across from Eddy Street. Student volunteers work at their volunteer sites from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Following the day of service, volunteers will gather at the Robinson Center for a picnic.

“People might do service at the Robinson Center or the Center for the Homeless or go work at one of the hospitals, but this is a cool opportunity for people that don’t really have the time to volunteer multiple times a week off campus,” Schemel said. “It provides a platform for people to get involved who haven’t gotten involved in the past.”


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