By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Around 500 freshmen and 30 transfer students from St. Ambrose University took the plunge and did service work throughout the Quad-City area Aug. 19 as part of the 13th annual Urban Plunge.
Jason Richter, director of student engagement at St. Ambrose, said many of the 21 sites were arranged prior to the event by Kaitlin Bormann, former director of the university’s service and justice ministry. He took over the Urban Plunge leadership this summer and did follow-up and lined up the instructors and peer assistants for the sites.
This year, the weather cooperated, making for a great event, Richter said. The past two years, schedules had to be modified due to rain. “There were a lot of weeding projects this year. You could visibly see what our students did for many sites. You can see the impact we made.”
Among the sites Ambrose students assisted at were RiverBend Food Bank, Jefferson and Madison schools and Nahant Marsh, all in Davenport, and Quad-City Botanical Center in Rock Island, Ill.
One group of students went to the PUNCH community garden in Davenport. Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport belongs to PUNCH, which stands for People Uniting Neighbors and Churches. The garden is located at First Baptist Church.
Ken Washburn, garden master at First Baptist, said the students were very helpful in filling trays with dirt and seed to start the next round of garden produce for inside the greenhouse, weeding the outdoor garden and pulling weeds around the church property.
The community garden is open for area neighbors to help with and to reap the benefits of the produce. Inside the green house are collard greens, turnips, green beans and tomatoes, Washburn said. The outdoor garden features green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and okra.
St. Ambrose freshman Faith McCubbin of East Moline, Ill., said it was fun to participate in the Urban Plunge. She got to know people in her class and do service at the garden. Fellow classmate Sean Thompson of Naperville, Ill., said it felt good to help out.
One visible difference this year — the participants didn’t have Urban Plunge T-shirts. Richter said when he started pricing shirts for all the students, mentors and peer assistants, the cost was an extra $1,500 due to tariffs. So he encouraged Urban Plunge participants to wear any St. Ambrose shirt that they were willing to get dirty or a blue or white shirt (the university’s colors).