by Kelly Johnson
While Community Building Day has served as a Whitworth tradition for more than a hundred years, 2011 will be a year very different from the previous.
“This year will be the largest day in history in scope and size,” Director Steven Lapointe said enthusiastically.
It is no exaggeration: The university will serve at 45 agencies throughout the greater Spokane area on Tuesday, and will require 25 buses to transport everyone to the locations.
Thirteen of those 45 groups will work in the West Central Neighborhood, which Lapointe said is one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the state of Washington. The students will help to clean and perform maintenance at low income apartments and working in a community garden.
“We’re hoping to have fifteen hundred students, faculty, and staff participate,” Lapointe said, stating also that the university upholds a strategic partnership with the West Central Neighborhood, an institutional commitment to help better the conditions.
The locations and projects change every year based on requests from the community said Lapointe. Many alumni and faculty—wanting to help long-term—now reside in the West Central Neighborhood.
Lapointe quotes Mother Teresa as encouragement: “Let us not be slow or ashamed to do the humble work.”
“Community Building Day is an annual Whitworth tradition of reaching out to the community to show we care and foster a spirit of service among students and instill the value of giving back to the community,” he also said.
Community Building Day serves as an excellent way to open doors, and is often the first step students take towards a life time of service orientation, even if in a humble day, Lapointe said.
Many students who have participated in Community Building Day agree with Lapointe.
“It’s a day Whitworth sets aside to go out into the community to participate in it and improve something,” sophomore Karina Basso said.
“Even if it’s just one day, it still helps. Some people may say, ‘it’s only one day, you’re not helping consistently,’ but even that one day of sorting clothes for the homeless helps.”
She was also enthusiastic about the connections and friendships that are formed during the activities and projects, not just between students and the people they are helping, but with other students. She explains that she met one of her best friends on the bus during Community Building Day.
“Whitworth is a small part of the Spokane community and it’s important for students to go out and be part of the community,” junior Mason Vigil said. “I would always encourage students to be involved in Community Building Day because Spokane has given us so much, and it’s important to give back and realize there’s more to Spokane than just Whitworth.”
Evan Underbrink, a junior and Senator of McMillan Hall, said Community Building Day impacted him by “fostering friendships with other students, opened my eyes to new experiences, and taught me about my strengths and weaknesses.”
Even Whitworth President Beck Taylor and his wife Julie plan to participate. They will be traveling to the Arc of Spokane Community Center, where they will tour the facility and interact with the members afflicted with developmental disabilities.
Community Building Day first started in 1907 as Campus Day. It was a time to clean up and beautify the campus, and allowed students to give back to the college.
Eventually, it evolved into a community served event, especially in the 1990s. Many different Spokane agencies have benefited from the help of the students and staff, including the Boys and Girls Club, Catholic Charities, Girl Scouts, Good Will, Youth for Christ and Volunteers of America.
The projects have involved everything from cleaning, maintenance, gardening and forestry work to distributing educational literature, sorting donations and interacting at community centers.
Last year Karen Morrison from Odyssey World International Education Services expressed gratitude to the university.
“A mere thank you does not seem enough to express my gratitude for all the wonderful volunteers that helped to make the Whitworth Community Building Day one of he highlights of the year,” she said.