By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Students at St. Ambrose University clocked 31,017 volunteer hours during the 2009-10 academic year. “This level of service is a testament to the type of students here at St. Ambrose,” says Dean of Students Tim Phillips. “St. Ambrose is a community committed to ‘enriching lives’ through peace, service and social justice initiatives. By giving back to the greater community our students are truly living the university’s mission.”
Tommy Fallon, an incoming senior sports management major, said volunteering has opened his eyes to a new world and made him realize that one person can make a difference. He has taken two service trips to David, Ky., through the campus ministry program.
He learned about the Kentucky service trip after participating in an Antioch retreat at the invitation of Father Chuck Adam, campus minister. During the past two spring breaks Fallon did a variety of hands-on work at the David School in Kentucky. “We did maintenance, worked on the trails, built benches and fixed a fire pit,” Fallon said. “We also shadowed, tutored and mentored a student.”
Following his first service trip, he thought he did a little bit to make a difference. But upon his return to Kentucky this past spring he realized what a big difference he made to at least one student.
“The student at the school was thrilled we came back. We were there only one week and he remembered our names. It shows that little things can make a big difference to one person.”
Fallon said he promised the students he would return again during spring break 2011. Fallon also chose to get involved with St. Ambrose’s Bee the Difference Day, by helping clean up an area resident’s yard. “I wasn’t required to do it. I just showed up and helped out.”
As a member of the cross country and track teams, he completed required service hours by helping distribute toys to children at Davenport schools. He also helps out at the Quad City Marathon each September. Volunteer service is what St. Ambrose is all about, Fallon said.
“My service trip to Kentucky showed me poverty and it puts you back in place. I don’t take as much for granted anymore. I want to do service.”
During the 2009-10 school year students participated in many activities and projects:
• Ambrosians for Peace and Justice service trips: Students logged 96 hours in Cedar Rapids flood-ravaged areas; 315 hours in an alternative high school in Appalachia; 120 hours at a shelter and on a “Bread Truck” distributing food to Chicago’s homeless population; and 140 hours in East St. Louis working in a women’s shelter and an after-school program, picking up trash and serving lunch at a soup kitchen.
• During Welcome Week’s “Urban Plunge,” 515 first-year students volunteered 1,500 hours of simultaneous community service across the Quad Cities area.
• Bee the Difference Day, a project helping campus neighbors with house or yard work, involved 305 Ambrosians providing 1,200 hours of service.
• Volunteers in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program spent 520 hours with their “littles” in a variety of activities on campus, in schools and the community.
• Ten students spent nearly 95 hours providing confirmation retreats for area junior high students. Thirty Ambrosians participated in Martin Luther King Day service projects, working a total of 60 hours.
• Thirty members of “Students Making a Difference” served 200 hours organizing a fundraising dinner for Haiti, working in an after-school program and making baby blankets for new moms. Ambrosians spent 104 hours visiting the L’Arche community in Clinton where people with and without disabilities share their lives together.
• SAU’s “Circle K” (Kiwanis) service organization worked 250 hours, fundraising for such organizations as UNICEF and the Spastic Paralysis Research Foundation, and volunteering for Truman Elementary and Alternatives for the Older Adult. The Phi Eta Sigma honor society raised $500 for an organization that provides clean water in some of the world’s poorest regions.
• Besides raising $5,000, SAU Habitat for Humanity logged more than 1,200 hours helping the local affiliate and volunteering during spring break in Beaumont, Texas.
• Service Learning involved 40 students who completed more than 800 hours of service. Their projects ranged from caring for animals at the Scott County Humane Society to updating computer systems at a shelter to working with children with special needs.
• More than 80 Ambrosians gave a total of 2,400 hours to raise awareness of worldwide hunger and gather canned goods and cash for local food pantries during Fast Fest. Volunteers during Hunger Week raised $750 for local food pantries and a Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday collection added $500.
• A total of $6,200 was raised for Catholic Relief Services’ earthquake relief in Haiti.
• SAU Up ’til Dawn raised nearly $10,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals while performing approximately 700 hours of volunteer service.
• SAU student-athlete volunteers performed 5,000 hours of community service as part of their “cornerstone” experience in SAU varsity athletics.
• Campus ministry tracked volunteer hours performed as a part of the curriculum and came up with 15,042 additional hours of student service. This volunteer work included such professor-led class projects as assisting retirement home residents in chronicling their lives, writing letters through Amnesty International, and raising money for Kids Against Hunger.
Fr. Adam said the St. Ambrose community’s various volunteer projects are done in partnership with the general community. The Big Brother/Big Sister program is one that so many St. Ambrose students want to help out with that there are not enough school-aged children available for the student volunteers. “It shows a big commitment that our students are willing to make.”
Regarding the service learning program, he said the life stories students collaborated on with residents at the Kahl Home for the Aged and Infirm were “phenomenal. Relationships really developed.”