Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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WSU Newman Center students dedicate spring break to service opportunities
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the April 12, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Students from the Newman Center at Washington State University, Pullman, spent spring break in Spokane, experiencing volunteer opportunities. Pictured at St. Anne Children and Family Center, Spokane are, in the back row (from left): Andrea Mendoza, Stephanie Pitts, Jake Abel, and Steve Michael; in the middle row are Mary Matej, Eric Brown-Dymkoski, and Michael Carroll; and in the front row are Rachel Torell, Jenn Law, and Liz Karst. (IR photo)
Each year during Washington State University’s spring break week, a group of students from the university’s Newman Center volunteer to spend most of the week in Spokane experiencing life and helping out at various Catholic Charities social service agencies. This spring break was no different.
The 10 visiting Newman Center students stayed at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center from Monday, March 12 until Friday, March 16, giving Tuesday through Thursday to lending a hand and getting to know people they might not otherwise meet.
Father Steve Werner, director/chaplain of the Newman Center, said that an “urban plunge” program was active at the Newman Center for many years, but the current service week began three years ago. “This is my fifth year at St. Thomas More,” he said, “and for the last three we have been doing the spring break service trip. It’s not an urban plunge like it used to be; it’s basically volunteer work for the students.”
Father Werner said that the biggest effect on the students that he sees is “the sense of community that develops over that week. The first time we did it, we did it with seven students, I think, and then last year we had 15. I think this year was better than last year, in the sense that it was easier to develop community when we didn’t have quite so many people. As long as I’m here we’ll do this each spring. It has been a good experience.”
Two of the students spoke about their experiences during their week in Spokane.
Liz Karst is a freshman from Holy Rosary Parish, Idaho Falls, Idaho, majoring in Apparel Design. Jake Abel is a sophomore from St. Andrew Parish, Eagle River, Alaska, located about 11 miles west of Anchorage. He’s majoring in Physics.
On Monday, the male students visited the Delaney Apartments, one of the Catholic Charities-sponsored housing complexes in Spokane.. “We helped a couple of elderly gentlemen clean their apartments,” Abel said. The same day, the female students went to Bernadette Place, a Catholic Charities housing facility for developmentally impaired women.
On Tuesday, Karst said, the women went to St. Margaret Shelter, a Catholic Charities transitional shelter for homeless women and their children. The men spent that day at St. Vincent de Paul, where they helped serve meals on Senior Day. On Thursday, all of the students helped out at St. Anne Children and Family Center.
Both Karst and Able agreed that using their spring break to experience service opportunities was definitely worthwhile. “This experience helps put life more in perspective,” said Abel. “At the House of Charity we worked with the poorest of the poor, and that kind of experience brings us out of our bubble and makes us really see where we can be helpful in society and all the great volunteer activities that are out there to help people who really need it.”
“There are so many ways to give back to society and help others,” said Karst. “This has just been a really great experience to meet people. You hear about homeless people, for example, but when you go and meet them you find out that they’re exactly like you and me. You get to know them as people. It has been so great to get to know all the people at the different places that we’ve been.”