Incoming Freshman to Spend Week Serving Community

News Story: August 1, 2010
During Community Connections, from left, freshman Nicolai Samuels of Bridgeport, CT, team leader and senior Amanda Francini of Berlin, CT, and freshman Natalie Giardina of Pompton Plains, NJ, served food at the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport.

Starting Saturday, August 28, a group of 48 incoming Sacred Heart University freshmen will begin college life by participating in Community Connections, an urban outreach program that teaches students the value of leadership and giving back to the community.

The freshmen, along with 14 upper-class student leaders and about a dozen faculty and staff, will spend the week at St. Charles Catholic Urban Center and Golden Hill United Methodist Church in Bridgeport. During the day the groups will work to help better the greater Bridgeport community by volunteering with a myriad of established outreach programs.

“The freshmen will be introduced to various service opportunities in the surrounding Bridgeport community, which will hopefully increase their understanding of urban issues,” says Dawn Doucette-Kaplan, coordinator of Volunteer Programs at SHU. “Service in the community is an integral part of the mission of Sacred Heart University, and this gives these young men and women a chance to work together to build homes, to serve food at the numerous centers and soup kitchens in Bridgeport, and share time with the neighborhood children and parents. Students are exposed to this idea of service during all of their four years here, and hopefully, giving back to the community will become an integral part of their lives when they continue on after college.”

Freshmen Christopher Rivera of New Haven, CT, and Allen Tedaldi of Poughkeepsie, NY, worked on building wall frames at the Habitat for Humanity warehouse in Bridgeport.

Among other activities, the freshmen will be preparing and serving food at various shelters and soup kitchens in Bridgeport such as the Merton Center, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Golden Hill Community Supper, Alpha Community Shelter and more; building houses with Habitat for Humanity; working with children at the Nursery School, Daughters of Charity; doing beautification projects throughout Bridgeport and working in Community Gardens; helping in classrooms and doing a Read Aloud at Columbus and Luis Marin Elementary Schools; organizing and decorating at Old School Commons; shelving and sorting food at the Holy Rosary Food Pantry, working with the RISE program encouraging special needs individuals in developing social skills; and assisting with varied projects at the Bridgeport Public Library.

Community Connections will commence with a “send-off” service at SHU’s Fairfield campus on Saturday, August 28, at 2:00 p.m. in the Outpost.

On Thursday, September 2, the SHU contingent will host a public cookout as a thank-you to the community. The cookout will be open to all of the people from the programs that the Community Connections participants work with during the week. The theme is “pot luck,” so anyone is welcome to bring food to contribute to the festivities. The cookout will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the lawn next to the St. Charles Rectory on the corner of Ogden and Kossuth streets. (In case of inclement weather, the picnic will be held indoors at the McGivney Center.) Entertainment will include games and music for the children.

“At Sacred Heart, we strive to continue to help the community that’s right next to us,” Doucette-Kaplan says. “The students embrace the community, and in return the community embraces us completely. These students get to know the individuals, which is really important.”