As Springfield College students and faculty enjoyed the diminishing duration of a much-needed winter break following a busy fall semester, members of the Newman Community embarked on a memorable community service trip to New York City. Accompanied by trip advisor Deacon Bill Toller, students Ricardo Vieux, Daniel Vitetta and Brigitte Smyth found themselves nestled in the South Bronx between January 13 and 17, offering first-hand assistance to those struggling to survive in the midst of another blustery winter.
Despite a lesser student turnout than last year, the trip remained a flagship experience for those who volunteered. Through dedication to a demanding itinerary, the Newman Community touched the lives of innumerable city inhabitants during their five days of service.
While committing to a myriad of charitable acts, the group gained a full-fledged, holistic cultural experience by living at St. Crispin’s Friary. Located in the poverty-stricken Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx, the friary offers shelter as well as a variety of services to the homeless and to all of the surrounding community.
“By taking some time to recognize how little you have, you also recognize how much you have to be thankful for,” expounds Vieux when recollecting his thoughts on the journey’s interactivity. “It’s something that I can’t even really put into words. It was that phenomenal of an experience.”
Vieux and his fellow volunteers spent the days of their visit to NYC performing charitable tasks that included preparing and packaging food at a food bank in the Bronx, making deliveries to homes and on city streets throughout the city area, and working at a soup kitchen in West Harlem.
In working for the organization God’s Love We Deliver, students were able to contribute to a charitable program that delivers over 4,000 meals daily to people in the New York City metropolitan area, spanning as far as parts of New Jersey. Vieux estimates that on the trip, the Newman Community packaged over 600 pounds of food
Two nights were spent making “midnight runs” around the city, handing out sandwiches the students prepared themselves, as well as clothing they gathered for donation before the trip. This proved to be one of the more profound and rewarding acts of kindness.
For Vieux, it provided a moment of deep realization:
“We went to Manhattan one night, and our group saw a woman on the street who was begging for money. So many people walked by her, not even acknowledging her existence, but some people gave her money. In my head I was thinking, sure the money is nice, but obviously, this woman is cold. She was shivering, and she had a tiny, thin scarf around her body, which did nothing for her. She needed clothing. People just kept throwing her money as if that would solve her immediate need. We went over to her and gave her what she needed.”
The Newman Community is a Catholic-based group, but is in no way exclusive. The purpose of the Newman Community is to provide Springfield College students and faculty with the opportunity for community service and spiritual growth. A variety of programs are sponsored by the group in addition to the yearly winter break trip.
Students and faculty members that yearn for the kind of uplifting opportunities that the Newman Community makes possible can join at any time. The Spiritual Life office can be found in the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union, or dialed at (413) 748-3209.