The President’s Invitation to Serve on May 19 was a fitting way to conclude the Cornerstone Inauguration weekend. President Troy Hammond and his family and some 75 faculty members and their families, staff and students joined forces to serve at one of the duplex homes with Emmanuel House, a nonprofit effort based in Aurora. Initiated by Rick Guzman ’99, Emmanuel House provides housing and help for refugee and working-class families.
“Giving back and service are a very important part of the philosophy of education at North Central,” says Hammond. “We’re following in the tradition of the faculty, staff and students who made this a priority of the College. Service was a natural thing to include in the weekend.”
Volunteers cleared brush, weeded landscaped areas, and prepared for planting 10 garden plots that Enactus students built on site last summer. Another group of volunteers transported and installed a swing set donated to Emmanuel House by Ryan Dowd ’00, executive director of Hesed House.
The eight young children living in the duplex units “were so excited when they saw the swing set,” says Whitney Roberts ’08, assistant director of ministry and service. “Our volunteers had to first dismantle it, then transport and put it back together again at the property.”
Jamie Maniameli ’15 helped pull weeds and hoe the garden beds. “I really like that the character of North Central is service-based,” she says. “It’s cool to be here serving with professors and President Hammond, and it’s a neat way to get to know him informally.”
Serving has been a family experience for years, says Hammond (photo, left), whose family adopted a child from Central America just over two years ago. “Ultimately, it was a service project in El Salvador that resulted in us meeting Adonay and him becoming our son. So service is especially meaningful to us.”
Donnavieve Smith, associate professor of marketing, and her son were among the volunteers. “I thought this would be a great way to bless families in transition while bonding with students and other faculty members. It turned out to be a beautiful experience,” says Smith.
Breaking the cycle of working-class poverty through homeownership, savings and expanded educational opportunities are chief goals of Emmanuel House. Current residents of the duplex are from Rwanda and Chicago and are gaining stability in their lives by saving toward home ownership and education. They, too, pitched in to help with the day of service.