An Association Serious About Service

Author: John Monczunski

The Notre Dame Club of Staten Island has collected over 300,000 nonperishable food items in nine years of its annual food drive. Meanwhile, the Tax Assistance Program of the Black Hills ND Club realized over $32,000 in tax savings for families in need last year, while the Minnesota Notre Dame Club mobilized 75 volunteers for a Christmas holiday party for 700 inner-city young people.

Notre Dame alumni clubs are serious about service. Nearly 70 percent of the clubs — about 150 out of 220 — currently are involved in activities like those on Staten Island, in the Black Hills and Minnesota. Projects range from tutoring and mentoring children to building houses with Habitat for Humanity.

In 1990 the ND alumni association established its Alumni Community Service Program to promote and facilitate service efforts by local ND clubs. Currently three members of the association staff work in the area, providing resources, ideas and programs.

The association offers access to a dozen different service programs. They include ND’s FIRST (Fighting Irish Retired Service Team), which links retired alumni with volunteer projects in their local communities; TAP/ND, Notre Dame’s tax assistance program in which alumni volunteers prepare tax forms for lower income families; and the Hammerin’ Irish, a cooperative effort with Habitat for Humanity in which alumni families help build a house for a needy family.

In a joint effort with the Center for Social Concerns, alumni clubs each summer host 180 Notre Dame students who spend vacation time working on a variety of community service projects. Students in the Summer Service Project receive a $1,900 scholarship from the alumni club for their participation.

This year the association has designated October its first “Month of Service” and October 20 as the inaugural “Notre Dame Day of Service.” Clubs have been encouraged to become involved throughout the month, especially on October 20. The association suggests local alumni groups that day follow the model developed by the Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia Notre Dame clubs in which alumni gather once a year for celebration of the Eucharist followed by community service work. The twist this year is that everyone then will gather to watch the ND-USC football game, which will be nationally televised that day.

John Monczunski is an associate editor of this magazine.

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