Assumption College Student Volunteers Help Rehabilitate House in Worcester’s Main South Neighborhood

Community service is a popular activity among Assumption College students. It enhances students’ liberal arts education and creates an on-campus environment that is inspiring and supportive of civic responsibility and community action.

The Reach Out Center, affectionately known as ROC, is Assumption College’s community service organization for students. Assumption students gain positive and rewarding experiences through volunteering in the greater Worcester community.

Marshfield, Mass. native William Rein is a junior at Assumption College, majoring in human services and minoring in community service learning. Since last academic year, Rein has been the service director for ROC’s program with Matthew 25. Starting with only two other student volunteers last academic year, he has as of this academic year recruited over 40 Assumption students to volunteer two Saturdays a month, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., to help rebuild a two-family house at 3 Benefit Terrace in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood.

Approximately 15 students work at a time to assist Matthew 25 employees and other volunteers rehabilitate abandoned houses and transform them into neighborhood gems. They help with interior demolition, painting, staining, and landscaping. When Matthew 25 houses are completed, the organization rents them to low-income working families at approximately 25 percent of their income. For larger or disadvantaged families, this means that they may finally have access to decent affordable housing – and it positively changes a neighborhood.

One doesn’t have to travel far to experience poverty, Rein said.

“It’s a five minute drive away. It’s right here,” he said, adding, “We can’t avoid this problem.
“Through our work in rehabilitating these rundown homes, Assumption students are benefiting Worcester families,” Rein said. “We are immersing ourselves in these neighborhoods; we’re talking with families and kids who live in the neighborhood, getting to know them, and getting to know the neighborhood beyond the yard we’re working in. It’s not only hard physical work, but it’s also hard emotional work, because you can see how other people are struggling. This is their life every single day, not just on the Saturdays we’re there.”

The goal is to have the 3 Benefit Terrace home completed by the end of 2013.

“We look at the house at 3 Benefit Terrace and think, ‘Someday, this will be someone’s house. This will be a family’s house,’” Rein said.

Other houses Assumption College students have worked on with Matthew 25 are on Birch and Chatham streets in Worcester.

In addition to volunteer work in the city of Worcester, Assumption College will also hold on-campus events Nov. 12-16 to raise awareness within the college community of hunger and homelessness issues.

“Through this observance, students will gain greater awareness of the complexity and the issues that are connected to hunger and homelessness,” said Carleen Roy-Butler, Assumption’s director of the Reach Out Center. “We also hope that they become more empathic and realize the inherent dignity of the hungry and homeless in the city. People who are hungry and homeless are still very much marginalized, but hopefully by raising awareness, we can increase students’ understanding of their struggle and the importance of their humanity.

The following activities will be held:
  • From 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Nov. 12, campus community members can visit an information booth in Hagan Campus Center to learn more about homelessness in Worcester as well as around the world.
  • At 7 p.m. Nov. 12, the Reach Out Center and Honors Program will present the film Homeless in Paradise, which is about four homeless people living in Santa Monica, Calif. After the film, a group of Assumption students will share interviews they recently conducted with Worcester's homeless. The film and student presentation will be held in Kennedy Hall, Alden Trust Room 112.
  • On Wednesday, Nov. 14, Assumption's 4th annual Sleep-out will be held, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on the lawns of Hagan Campus Center and Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The evening will include reflections and simulations of hunger and homelessness.

Throughout the week, the Reach Out Center will hold food and toiletry drives. Non-perishable canned goods will be collected and donated to Worcester's Burncoat High School Food Pantry. Toiletries (deodorant, razors, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, etc.) will be collected and donated to the Massachusetts Veterans Shelter. All donations can be dropped off in the ROC, located in Hagan Campus Center, first floor.

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews