Thursday, March 20, 2008

SXU students forgo traditional spring break for service

26 students and staff uphold Mercy tradition in Appalachia, New Orleans and Cincinnati

(From left) Saint Xavier University students Katie Eskridge and Leeza Steward and staff member Patrick Biggins help hang drywall at a home in New Orleans as part of the Mercy Volunteer Corps alternative Spring Break program. Twenty-six SXU students and staff members traveled across the country to help the less fortunate.

Chicago (March 20, 2008) While many college students were spending Spring Break partying, 26 Saint Xavier University students and staff members were volunteering to help poor and marginalized people across the country.

Four groups from SXU traveled to Cincinnati, Appalachia and New Orleans as part of the Mercy Volunteer Corps, a year-long volunteer program sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. Corps members offer service through full-time volunteering and commit to living simply in a community and to personal and communal spiritual growth.

“We are proud that our students and staff sacrificed their Spring Break to gain real-world experience and compassion by helping the less fortunate,” said Saint Xavier Director of Campus Ministry Eileen Doherty. “They are truly carrying forward the long tradition of service founded by the Sisters of Mercy more than 160 years ago."

Three students and two staff members traveled to Cincinnati to stay with a Mercy Volunteer Corps community and experience the life of a full-time post-graduate volunteer. Students worked alongside MVC members at their various service sites, including Mercy Connections social service agency, the Caring Place food pantry, Bethany House shelter for women and children and a local parish school.

Five students, two staff members and one retired staff member worked with Glenmary’s Group Volunteer Program at the Glenmary Farm in eastern Kentucky. The Farm is an integral part of life for Lewis County, one of the poorest counties in the state. Participants built and repaired homes, assisted at a day care center for adults with developmental disabilities, and worked at a nursing home for the elderly and disabled.

Another group also headed to eastern Kentucky to assist the Christian Appalachian Project’s annual Workfest. They stayed in a summer camp with students from other colleges, and helped renovate homes while learning basic skills.

Catholic Charities of New Orleans welcomed six SXU students and two staff members. The volunteers helped installed drywall in a home and slept in classrooms of an old school.

This was the second year that SXU Senior Leeza Steward attended the New Orleans program. She said her first trip so influenced her that she changed her major to education and now plans to return to New Orleans after she graduates in May to continue teaching and rebuilding.

"When I went back this year, I saw that there had been progress made,” she said. "The first year I went on the trip, I came back with a sense of purpose. The second year, I came back with a sense of hope.”


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