Twice a year, 300 students storm the Gallagher Student Center at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, awaiting the opportunity to paint walls, dig in dirt and package miscellaneous goods into cardboard boxes. If you attempted to host this event at any other school, the results may differ, but here at Xavier, Community Action Day (CAD) does just that, year after year after year.
“Although giving up a Saturday morning is not ideal, Community Action Day is worth my time because I get to meet new people and serve with my community here in Cincinnati,” sophomore CAD site leader Niki Shekaran said.
It’s more than the pizza and free t-shirt for senior Emilie Eros, who has participated since she was a first-year. She’s worked at Matthew: 25 Ministries, the Irish Heritage Center and the NEXUS garden, among other sites.
“I kept coming back to CAD each year because my sites that I went to provided me such good experiences,” Eros said.
The idea of coming back each year isn’t unique to Eros. As CAD board member Ryan Spolar recalls, there hasn’t been a single CAD he’s spent sleeping in.
“What keeps me going is that we’ve had relationships with these sites now for years and will continue to,” he said.
Senior Lauren DiFiore got her start in CAD through a club but added that the relationships and community have kept her coming back.
“Xavier coming together as one to give back to the community around us that gives us so much… is the perfect example of how Xavier students can live out Xavier’s mission of being men and women for and with others,” DiFiore said. “Also, Father B is always there, and who doesn’t want to start their morning with a prayer from Father B?”
CAD has not gone without its share of criticism, however. CAD President Miles Tiemeyer said some have expressed the view that a single morning of service only scratches the surface of deeper issues or needs.
“I think that one critique CAD often gets is that it is ‘band aid’ service, which doesn’t actually address social justice needs, but to me that’s not what CAD is about,” Tiemeyer said.
There are countless people around Cincinnati working for countless organizations trying to make the world a more just place. CAD is about making the lives of those people easier.
“If we can do some of the manual labor so that the staff can address some of the real social justice issues, then I am happy to pull weeds for three hours,” Tiemeyer said. “I think it is important to have short service opportunities on campus so that students who are too busy throughout their week to do other service have the opportunity to do service (at least) twice a year.”
Eros agreed with Tiemeyer and added that these short-term service opportunities can lead to long-term relationships.
“Short service also allows people the opportunity to learn about organizations throughout Cincinnati and hopefully form long-lasting relationships with the sites,” she said.
According to Spolar, the connections made at CAD last longer than a Saturday morning.
“CAD can help serve as a gateway for new students to dip their toes in the water,” Spolar said. “Often times they are serving alongside site leaders and students with plenty of other CFJ-related experience that can be a connector. For example, maybe they enjoyed their time at CAD and want to join X-Change and then possibly (Dorothy Day Immersion programs).”
As a whole, Tiemeyer said, this morning of service is just that — a single morning — but it can help exponentially.
“Our goal isn’t to create social change on one Saturday afternoon,” Tiemeyer said, “but if we can make the lives of those who do work day in and day out for justice a little bit easier, then we are doing what I think CAD is designed for.”
By: Brittany Wells | Staff Writer