Primed to make a difference
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The dingy multi-colored walls of Club 81 are now a bright off-white, thanks to the efforts this week of a team of volunteers from a small college in Massachusetts.
The six students are from The College of Our Lady of the Elms, often shortened to Elms College, near Springfield, Mass. Accompanying them are two Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, and coordinating their week here is Kathleen Norman, a volunteer with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.
This is one of three volunteer efforts Elms students are taking part in for their spring break, said Sister Carol Allan, who is the director of campus ministry at Elms College. Other teams are in New Orleans, where they have gone every year since 2006 to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, and Jamaica, where they volunteer in schools and clinics.
This is their first time coming to Concordia, Sister Carol said. “We like to go where there’s a strong connection with the charism (of the Sisters of St. Joseph), and where we can see that in the community,” she added.
Kathleen has planned the week to ensure that happens.
In addition to priming and repainting the entire interior of Club 81 — a drug- and alcohol-free gathering place for local teens that’s operated by the Community Resource center — the volunteers are helping to deliver Meals on Wheels and have visited Neighbor to Neighbor in downtown Concordia. While here, they are staying at Manna House of Prayer, a spiritual retreat center staffed by Sisters of St. Joseph.
They started their Kansas visit with a trip to the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, to get a better understanding of the geography, geology and history of the region.
The students raise money to pay for their participation in the volunteer program, while the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield raise money separately to pay the expenses for Sister Carol and Sister Denise Granger to accompany them.
“These young people are really committed to making a difference — both in themselves and for others,” Sister Carol explained. “They see it in themselves when they go back to school.”
This is just one of four “Spring Break Alternatives” being sponsored and coordinated by the Concordia congregation this month. Three groups — from Holy Cross College in Worchester, Mass.; St. Edward’s College in Austin, Texas; and a combined team from Kansas State University, Barton College and Sacred Heart High School — will each spend a week at the sisters’ Grandview Convent in El Paso, Texas. They will be hosted by Sister Christine Doman, who lives at the Grandview Convent, with assistance from Sister Julie Christensen of Concordia. Sister Anna Marie Broxterman and Kathleen Norman are scheduled to travel to El Paso to help with the combined group of students from Kansas schools.
At the same time, Sister Beverly Carlin will assist another group of student volunteers from Kansas State University who will spend their Spring Break Alternative in Denver. That trip is being coordinated by the K-State campus minister.