By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University freshmen volunteered throughout the Quad-City area Aug. 22 helping various organizations spruce up their properties or do other work. The annual Urban Plunge started with sendoffs at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Kaitlin Depuydt, director of service and social justice ministry at St. Ambrose, said about 450 students headed out with a peer assistant and an instructor to 25 service sites.
“Urban Plunge is one of the first events for our newest students on the St. Ambrose campus. It’s their first full day here, and we have them head out into the community to do service at 25 community organizations. It’s an important part of our Welcome Week because the campus community values service and they are now part of that community.
“Urban Plunge is reserved just for the incoming class to participate in, but we have other service days throughout the year that all of the campus is invited to take part in that serve the neighborhood such as Bee the Difference Day and CommUNITY day.”
This is the ninth year for Urban Plunge, Depuydt noted. “We began in 2008 with just three service sites. It has evolved over time to involve the entire class of incoming freshmen.”
Around 20 students headed to Humility of Mary Housing Inc. (HMHI) apartments on College Street in Davenport. Patti Trapp, volunteer coordinator and donation center manager for HMHI, said the work the students put in is much appreciated. “They are always a great group helping out at the Urban Plunge and Saturday service. We couldn’t get the things done that we need without volunteers.”
On College Street, HMHI owns six apartments for single-parent families. That could be a mom, dad or even grandparent with children. On Aug. 22, Trapp had the students mow the yards, trim, pull weeks and pick up trash. “With 47 apartments altogether, this is a really big help.”
Student Paige Setchell of Amboy, Ill., said the service project was very helpful for the agency. Carmen Martin of St. Louis said, “Every little bit helps.”
At Project Renewal, which offers a positive presence for children and families in a low-income Davenport neighborhood, students spread wood chips and picked up trash at nearby Sr. Concetta Park and helped clean and spruce up the Treat House where an after-school program is offered.
Ann Schwickerath, Project Renewal’s director, said St. Ambrose students have been an asset for years. In addition to helping out at Urban Renewal and Saturday service, many students return as part of a class or on their own to help the youths.
“We rely on volunteers. We do not have a maintenance team or cleaning service. It’s just our staff of two and the help of volunteers,” Schwickerath said. Keeping the house, property and park clean motivates the youths to take notice and alert staff when they see trash. “It’s little things that rub off on these kids that can make a difference.”