Preparing to go M.A.D.: Partnership urges students to reach out to homeless

By Nick LaRosa
January 22, 2011

Juniors Morgan Hibbert, Megan Hawkinson and Maureen Hammond begin to organize events.

Students were encouraged to Go Make A Difference (M.A.D.) with the homeless during an orientation event in the Wolfington Center on Thursday, Jan. 20.  The event urged students to become involved and plan on and off campus events with the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center in Norristown, Pa.

Cabrini began working with the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center two years ago as a way for students to connect with the community.  CHOC is a shelter that gives the homeless a place to stay while they look for employment and better living opportunities.

According to Stephen Eberle, coordinator of community partnerships with the Wolfington Center, the meetings with the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center originally were a part of a SEM 300 class in 2007.

“The members of that class were participating in focus groups with the residents,” Eberle said.  “The residents were more comfortable talking with college students.”

Simply by organizing events and activities both on and off campus, students can really make a difference through their participation with the Go M.A.D. volunteer program.

“Working with the homeless really opens your eyes toward some things that you may have not thought of,” Allison Udris, senior psychology major andSpanish minor, said.

Udris has been involved with CHOC since the opportunity opened up to her two years ago and currently serves as a student leader.  She previously spent time at Catholic Social Services putting together care packages for Spanish-speaking families.

Senior Allison Udris speaks to the group.

“It’s really important to set up a connection,” Udris said, “but sometimes it is difficult because you may bond with someone from the shelter and that person may not be there the next time.”

Many of the events planned by Cabrini have benefits for the students in attendance as well.  In the past, the program has attended plays and participated in area festivals with the members of CHOC.

Similar to the Teen Motivators and Norristown Tree Tenders programs run by the Wolfington Center, students can learn from this volunteer opportunity while also having fun attending events and spending time with members from the shelter.

“I think it will be fun to meet new people,” Joe Horton, junior English major, said.  “With all the biases you hear about the homeless, it will be interesting to see what they are really like.”

The program invites students to spend time with the members of CHOC from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“Any student who is interested can always join,” Salvatore Profaci, community outreach assistant with the Wolfington Center, said.  “We are always looking for new volunteers.”

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Nick LaRosa

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