By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University students, faculty and staff contributed 158,467 hours of service during the 2015-16 school year. “St. Ambrose’s very mission calls all of us here at the university to ‘enrich the lives of others,’” said its president, Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ. “Our students build homes, help
neighbors and fundraise. They serve children and adults, from those who need mentoring to those who live on the margins of society. This is who we are as an institution — and I am very proud of our student body.”
Kaitlin Depuydt, director of service and social justice ministry, often helps coordinate many of the service projects in which the university participates. She also strives to collect all service hours from organizations on campus, various departments that may require service, and to connect with individuals who go out and do service.
She said the first act of service to kick off the school year is the annual Urban Plunge, when freshmen and transfer students go out into the community to perform service and get to know the Quad-City area. Close to 500 students will participate in this year’s plunge Aug. 22, serving about 30 organizations.
St. Ambrose as a university, in general, does not require service hours to graduate, Depuydt said. Some departments may require volunteer hours for a particular class or degree. The athletics department often has athletes out in the community.
“The numbers are just impressive,” she said. “And the students do this because they want to.” Last school year, 440 hours of service were contributed to Project Renewal in Davenport, 348 hours of service were contributed to various efforts on Saturdays, 759 hours went to Habitat for Humanity (locally and through two service trips), 276 hours went to Ambrosians for Peace & Justice, 2,546 hours were contributed to Bee’s Knees Prayer Ministry and 600 hours were donated by the psychology club and Psi Chi psychology honor society.
A new partnership with River Bend Foodbank in Davenport began last school year. Students earned hours by collecting food, going to the warehouse to fill backpacks and sort food. “I would love to get the students to help at a mobile food bank,” Depuydt said.
She continues to look for new partners for the university to expand its options. At Project Renewal, which offers a positive presence for children and families in a low-income Davenport neighborhood, students have tutored and helped with activities. This past year they helped plan the fit fest, which replaced the annual walk/run. Depuydt said a St. Ambrose team worked with director Ann Schwickerath to plan the 10-station obstacle course. The college students also served as timekeepers. “More than 100 students helped make this a success.”
At the St. Ambrose University Center for Communication and Social Development, Cassy Gaddis, a graduate student in speech-language pathology, spent time July 14 working with 5-year-old James Garrison on speech. Bridget Garrison, James’ mom, said he has been receiving speech therapy for about a year at St. Ambrose. She said James had “significant speech delay. You could understand only 40 percent of what he said. Now it’s up to 70 percent.”
James received assistance from DeWitt public schools, but when summer arrived last year, the therapist suggested finding additional help for him. After searching, Bridget learned about St. Ambrose’s program.
He now receives speech therapy twice a week. This fall, James will be in kindergarten at St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt (his family belongs to the parish) and he will receive speech therapy at St. Ambrose once a week.