I am currently enrolled in a theology class in which we are encouraged to volunteer in the South Bend community. I chose to volunteer for a place called Monroe Park Grocery Co-Op, which is based on Our Lady of the Road. Our Lady of the Road is an apostolate for an organization that you might have heard of before called The Catholic Worker. I go there for two hours every Tuesday or Friday to bring affordable food to elders that do not leave their apartment building often or to cook and make food bundles for the community.
The fun in all of this is to engage with the community and connect with people that you wouldn’t see on campus. For example, the guy in charge of the whole operation, Larry, is a hard-working and dedicated man that is constantly joking and having fun while also serving the elders we bring groceries to. Once we get to our destination, there is a resident called Evelyn who helps us set up everything we bring. Well, we help her rather because as soon as we get there, she is pointing to tables, taking the food from our hands, and organizing every single product in what seems to be a completely random order. I have never seen anyone that involved in anything. She waits next to the door for us every time and, after we are done setting up, she starts packing the goods that her fellow residents are buying. Seeing her work really puts things in perspective for me as I often then realize that I should never be too exhausted to help or too annoyed to joke around.
If I go on Fridays, we cook and prepare baskets of food for people for that night or for Saturday breakfast. Cooking is one of those activities that are perfect for bonding with the people you cook with. I not only get the input of others' recipes, but I also get to talk and get to know other Notre Dame students, alumni, and South Bend residents that volunteer there.
Something else I really enjoy is the commuting. In order to get to the site, I have to take the city bus to the bus station or coordinate with a classmate who has a car. However, taking the bus is not bad at all, I actually quite enjoy it. Something that I regret not knowing are the schedules and the routes of the South Bend public transport – it is such an underutilized tool by the ND students! You can go downtown, eat in all sorts of restaurants, walk next to the river, go to the theatre, different coffee shops, baseball games, and so on.
Notre Dame offers a strong bridge to the community of local South Bend. It is up to the students to cross it. Whether you take a class that incites you to volunteer or join a club which only purpose is to serve the Lord, there is a bridge for you to connect with the gracious people around surrounding the Dome.