By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — More than 500 first-year students to St. Ambrose University spread throughout the Quad-City area for an “Urban Plunge” of community service Aug. 23.
“St. Ambrose University has a rich tradition of social justice that is rooted in our Catholic intellectual tradition,” said Stella O’Rourke of campus ministry and a coordinator of Urban Plunge. “This is an important piece of what it means to be an Ambrosian, and Urban Plunge is one of many projects we do to share this tradition with our first-year students.”
Students received light blue T-shirts to don for this year’s outing and then spread out to assigned sites with a leader and a peer assistant. Work site projects assisted such organizations as Rock Island, Ill., Parks and Recreation Department, and Gilda’s Club, Figge Art Museum and the Kahl Home for the Aged and Infirm in Davenport.
At John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport, Principal Chad Steimle said St. Ambrose students raked mulch, picked up trash and sticks, weeded flower beds and swept the parking lots on the 11.5-acre campus. “This year is the second we have had SAU students on campus for the Urban Plunge. Many of the students in the group that are on campus for the Urban Plunge will also be ‘Bee Buddies’ with our fifth-graders and correspond with them this year.”
At Holy Family Parish and All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, Roberta Pegorick, director of religious education, had St. Ambrose students move file cabinets and furniture from the school to the portable classroom on parish/school grounds. They also painted the porch at Holy Family’s Teddy Bear Club, worked on garden plots, cleared off the stage area and assisted with making student/parent folders for sacramental preparation.
“Our parent volunteers did as much as they could before school started last week,” Pegorick said. “What they were unable to finish, the St. Ambrose students did for us. It takes a lot of hands to get this all done.”
Over at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, classrooms in the parish center were being prepped for religious education classes, which begin Sept. 12. Pastoral Associate Susan Stanforth said the classrooms haven’t had a thorough cleaning since the elementary school merged and moved to the All Saints campus several years ago. St. Ambrose students washed chalkboards, dusted light fixtures, cabinets, baseboards and desks. They also cleaned the floors.
“Without the students’ help, our volunteer catechists would have had to do the work,” she said. And dusting of the light fixtures probably would not have been done.
Caleb Boyer of Peoria, Ill., said he liked the idea of the Urban Plunge because “it shows we care for the community. Anything we can do to help out is always good.”
Neil Martin of Brookfield, Ill., felt it was a great opportunity for the new students to get out into the community and help. “If we hadn’t helped here (at Sacred Heart), it would have taken the volunteers days to do all of this.”
And Diana Donnelly of Princeton, Ill., said she loved the concept of a day of service projects. Although the “dust was terrible (at Sacred Heart), someone had to do it.”
Urban Plunge is one of many annual service activities and projects completed by St. Ambrose students.