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Lenten Reflection Through Service
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Lenten Reflection Through Service

Alumni Volunteer at Father Michael Wittman Ozanam Center

By Mary Elizabeth Cotleur ’98

Each year the Notre Dame College Alumni Association invites members on a daylong Lenten spiritual journey. This year, the group visited the Father Michael Wittman Ozanam Center in East Cleveland. On a busy Saturday in March, the alumni volunteers greeted the center’s patrons, recorded donations, sorted and hung clothing, cleaned the facility, and prepared food bags for distribution. It was an experience that left the group feeling humbled.

“When preparing the bags of food, it was difficult to imagine those supplies lasting a month,” Alumni Relations Graduate Assistant Erin Butterfield ’08 said. “It made me realize how lucky I am to always have a meal when I am hungry.”

For those who aren’t that lucky, the Father Michael Wittman Ozanam Center opened its doors at Christ the King Parish in 2006. When the parish merged with St. Ann, St. Louis and St. Philomena to form Communion of Saints Parish in 2009, the center moved into the spacious former rectory of St. Philomena Church. From there, it distributes clothes and food to needy individuals from the Greater Cleveland area. While the center primarily focuses on its immediate community, people who don’t live in the nearby East-side suburbs are never turned away.

The alumni who volunteered as part of the Lenten Day of Service were moved by their experience. We invite you to get involved here at Notre Dame College and volunteer your talents to your alma mater. There are many ways you can make a difference:

  • Mentor a student or conduct a practice job interview
     
  • Assist in recruiting new students
     
  • Join an Alumni Association committee
     
  • Participate in campus beautification
     
  • Write for Notre Dame Today
     
  • Be part of the Falcon Club, athletic boosters
     
  • Share your talents with Campus Ministry

For more information about how to participate in the activities above or to create your own service opportunity at Notre Dame, contact the Alumni Relations Office at 216.373.6385.

The center is a participating agency of the Cleveland Foodbank, from which it purchases about 95 percent of the groceries it distributes for free every Saturday. Individuals, groups and local parishes donate the remaining groceries. The center could not exist without the help of its dedicated, longtime parish volunteers, who take weekly staffing turns and are supported by outsiders such as the Notre Dame alumni.

One of the participating alumni was Candy Clemson ’70, who said she was impressed by the enthusiasm and strength of the regular volunteers.

“I was happy to give all I had to lighten the regular volunteers’ load,” Clemson said. “They have a terrific program up and running.”

That program provides households with a standard selection of grocery items once a month. A household of one or two people receives one bag of groceries, a household of three or four receives two bags, and one of five or more people receives three bags. In addition to the standard products, the households may choose a limited number of items from the “miscellaneous shelf.” The distributed clothing is limited to four items per person per month.

During their visit, the passionate alumni volunteers, led by Associate Professor of English and Communication and Alumni Association Religious Chair Sr. Eileen Quinlan, SND, Ph.D. ’74, sorted an entire garage full of clothing donations for the center. They also packaged the monthly food allotments into bags, which included macaroni and cheese, tuna fish, dried fruit, canned vegetables, cereal, powdered milk, pasta, sauce, prepared meals and toilet paper.

“It’s my hope that our enthusiasm and extra energy enabled the regular volunteers the opportunity to spend a few more minutes with the center’s clientele,” Clemson said, “giving those people who might have had a very bad month a little extra attention.”

Mary Elizabeth Cotleur ’98 is the director of alumni relations & associate director of development at Notre Dame College.