St. Bonaventure Students Give Back with Saint’s Place

By Liam McGurl 

[Image courtesy of]

Despite the temptations of a day full of sunbathing, students spent Sat., April 18, volunteering in the Rochester-based Saint’s Place Home.

The group of volunteers gathered for the event at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning—ready to lend a listening ear and helping hand to those in need.  While the trip to Rochester was not too long, many said the day ahead of them was tiring.

“On this trip, I did most of heavy lifting. Since I was one of two guys, we had to load the Saint’s Place truck with beds, dressers, couches, chairs, bed frames, TV​s and other home items,” said Taquan Brown, a freshman theater major and volunteer at the event. “I had to help unload, put together and place the furniture in specific places while also helping clean up any messes.”

While this may have been some students’ first time going on the trip, campus ministries has been offering this day trip since 2010—once in both the fall and spring semesters.

According to the Saint’s Place website, “Saint’s Place is a volunteer organization, based on Christian values, that provides household goods, clothing and education to legal refugees of all races and creeds who settle in the Rochester, NY area to escape violence, discrimination and poverty.”

Along with their personal outreach efforts, Saint’s Place also collaborates with Catholic Charities Organization, Rochester, NY.

“The city of Rochester welcomes 700 legal refugees each year,” Sr. Kush, Thomas Merton Center director, said.  “Many of them are from hispanic-speaking countries; Burma, Butan, and Somalia—that’s just to name a few.”

Although Saint’s Place has been providing to local refugees for over a decade, St. Bonaventure has been dedicated to collaborating with the organization over the past few years.

These trips began when Kush, was introduced to Colleen Knauf, the founder of Saint’s Place, when Knauf was awarded the Gaudette Medal for her exemplification of Franciscan values.

After speaking with Knauf and researching refugee ministries, Kush decided she wanted to begin these bi-yearly trips to Saint’s Place.

During their time at Saint’s Place, students volunteer working in either the organization’s clothing closet or setting up local-refugees’ apartments.  For this specific weekend, volunteers in the apartment helped a local refugee set up his new home.

While this group painted and decorated, volunteers in the Saint’s Place clothing closet mixed and matched—putting together spring and summer clothing options for local refugee children.

Although volunteers spent the majority of the trip doing hands-on work, the students were also able to hear from a local refugee who recently became an American Citizen.

“We had the opportunity to hear a Bhutanese man’s story, and it was absolutely incredible,” Rachael Herrmann, a senior business management major said.  “It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives and trouble; we lose sight of what reality is for most people—no electricity, no running water, fear, hunger, and extreme poverty. This gentleman’s testimony was so very eye opening for me, giving me a fresh perspective to come back to campus with.”

While those who attend these trips say the experience is enjoyable, other students may look past all the benefits of service.  Although some students might think volunteering is boring, or that they don’t have enough time to do it, dedicating a day to service could be more enjoyable than expected.

“There are so many service opportunities Bonas offers, both locally and regionally, nationally and internationally,” Kush said.  “[Volunteering] takes what we might read in a textbook or talk about, and give a name and a face to marginalize individuals.  It makes the issues of poverty, homelessness and mental illness real, and it enhances the education students are receiving.”

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