By Catherine Ake
For the past six years, volunteers from the University of Notre Dame and the South Bend community spend one Saturday in the spring engaging in various volunteer projects for CommUniversity Day. At its height, CommUniversity Day had 600 volunteers participate. This year, CommUniversity Day is continuing under a new name, Back the Bend 2015, and will take place all day Saturday April 11th. Back the Bend 2015 partners with South Bend’s yearlong SB 150 celebration, celebrating South Bend’s 150th anniversary, and community partners are providing volunteer activities for participants. This year’s community partners include: the City of South Bend Public Works Department, Indiana Landmarks, the Neighborhood Resources Connection, the Northeast Neighborhood Council, the Notre Dame Center for Arts & Culture, Rebuilding Together, the Robinson Community Learning Center, South Bend Parks and Recreation, and Unity Gardens.
Members of the community and the University are invited to volunteer in one or more of the many volunteer opportunities available through Back the Bend. There are over twenty activities to choose from. Artistically minded individuals can participate in activities such as “Art Crosswalks” that will design and paint crosswalk art, paint barrels and tables for South Bend parks, or paint murals at the Robinson Community Learning Center. There are also more hands-on projects such as rehabilitating a home with Indiana Landmarks, raking leaves at Rum Village Park, mulching pathways at the Unity Gardens, or working with Rebuilding Together to renovate houses.
Back the Bend begins with a Kickoff celebration on Notre Dame’s Irish Green at 8:30 a.m. There will be breakfast, music, and a quick send-off speech from University and community representatives.
Rebuilding Together utilizes the efforts of around 1,000 volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, to repair 20 homes within a St. Joseph County neighborhood. The project helps low income families, senior citizens, and disabled individuals repair and maintain their properties.
The Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) is hosting a 5k walk/run called Homeward Bound. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The RCLC has hosted this event for the past four years, and sees between 350-400 participants. This year, they look to raise $20,000 to raise awareness of homelessness and affordable housing in Indiana. Participants are able to choose one of several agencies to contribute their donation to. Many RCLC students participate in Homeward Bound, and either walk, run, or volunteer at the event.
The RCLC is also hosting a picnic for Back the Bend volunteers at 3 p.m. Food is provided by Five Guys Burgers & Fries. All University and community volunteers are encouraged to join.
For a complete list of possible volunteer activities, please visit backthebend.nd.edu. Volunteers should sign-up online using the “Sign-Up Now” button on each project’s page. Continue to check the website over the upcoming weeks, as events are frequently being added.