The Catholic University of America

Hands helping hands: residents at the Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center waited patiently for their chance at free manicures from CUA law students.

First-year Students 'Walk the Walk' for Community Service

Sometimes it is the smallest gestures that make the biggest impact: a cleaned window pane, a new coat of paint, an amicable game of checkers, or a younger person who is willing to simply listen.

Catholic University first-year law students offered all of that and more during 2009's Community Service Day, held on Aug. 18. More than 70 students-roughly a quarter of the class- responded in the most meaningful way possible to the many exhortations they heard during orientation week to integrate a commitment to serving others into their personal and professional lives.

The students gave generously of their time and energy and showed every sign of whetting their appetites for more. This year, the volunteers spread out to six sites in Northeast Washington in the greater Brookland/CUA neighborhood. They were bused to St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home; the Missionaries of Charity Gift of Peace Home; the Little Sisters of the Poor; the Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; the Kennedy Institute and St. Anthony's Catholic School.

So many jobs need doing. CUA law volunteers make it happen.

At each location, the new law students pitched in to help with whatever was needed. At St. Ann's, for example, they painted new lines on the pavement and washed the buses used to transport residents to jobs and training programs. Their visit began with a brief description of its history by its chief administrator, Sister Mary Bader. St Ann's was one of the nation's first "foundling" homes, dedicated to preparing single mothers to become family breadwinners. It was incorporated in 1863 by an act of Congress and signed into official existence by President Lincoln.

At Carroll Manor, elderly residents were treated to lovingly administered manicures, much to their obvious delight. At the Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, which serves developmentally disabled people, the students played with children and later washed windows and doors in the classrooms.

Cleaner corridors and classrooms brighten the
environment at the Kennedy Institute.

One of the greatest gifts the students were able to offer, at least temporarily, was the alleviation of loneliness. At the local home of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order that serves more than 13,000 elderly residents in 200 homes around the world, the volunteers (below) simply mixed, talked and listened to the older people. They escorted some of them to and from Mass and their attentions left many of the residents smiling; their spirits lifted by interaction with kind men and women young enough to be their grandchildren.

And so it went, the half-day of volunteer community service a hopeful harbinger of more to come. The first-year students left a positive impression in whatever form their service took. As Sister Bader remarked to the group, "Catholic University's law school has been very, very good to us."

Law school faculty and staff did their share as well,
preparing sandwiches for distribution to local food networks.