Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

‘Plunge Inn’ experience: society’s needs greater than students expected

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the May 1, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Mireya Fernandez (St. Vincent Parish, Connell), Bill McMillan (St. Mary Parish, Spokane), Jill Burgard (St. John Vianney Parish, Spokane), and Jamie Trudnowski (Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Suncrest), worked on a Habitat for Humanity site during spring break’s “Plunge Inn” experience this year. (IR photo)

Shannon Albo and Lisa Trenter, both from St. Mary Parish in Spokane, agreed: the first Spokane Diocese Plunge Inn Service Week was “an eye-opener” that they would like to do again next year.

Said Albo: “I learned how much we really have and how we take things for granted.”

Trenter said she didn’t know there were so many agencies that helped the less fortunate.

Three other high school students also participated in the Plunge Inn this first year: Jill Burgard from St. John Vianney in Spokane, Jamie Trudnowski from Our Lady of the Lake at Suncrest, and Mireya Fernandez from St. Vincent in Connell.

Fernandez made special arrangements with her teachers to attend; her school’s spring break was the week before.

The Plunge Inn was organized by diocesan youth minister Paul Mach and social ministries director Scott Cooper. While the turn-out of students could have been larger, Mach said that for this first Plunge Inn, the lower number was probably better “for getting the kinks out.”

Promotion for the event began after Christmas. Unfortunately, that meant many high school students and their families had already made their plans for spring break this year.

Students were invited to spend time experiencing the life of the Spokane poor. Participants stayed at the House of Charity, which ministers to the homeless and street people of downtown Spokane. The students were given $1.50 per day for lunch plus bus fare. They could save the $1 bus fare by choosing to walk and then add the dollar to their lunch money. Cooper said the girls were thrifty, with all five together saving “slightly less than half” the total amount they were allotted which they gave to back to charity.

The Plunge Inn was more than experiencing the life of the poor. It was a week for service, too. The students worked at the House of Charity, St. Margaret Shelter, St. Anne Children’s Home, and on a house being built by Habitat for Humanity.

Mach compared the Plunge Inn to the mustard seed of the Gospels. “This small group was like a small little seed. The kids and their parents were so grateful; it was phenomenal how they were affected by the experience. They will take that back to their parishes and communities and it will affect others.” The girls related their experiences at a Mass held at the House of Charity the last night of the Plunge Inn. Their parents attended the Mass along with Mach and Cooper. Jesuit Father Dick Mercy was celebrant.

Both diocesan ministers hope the experience will continue. “We’re going to look into the possibility of doing it again,” Mach said.

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