Building Community in the Twin Cities – Fighting Irish-style

If it’s Tuesday evening, you know where to find Jim Anderson: in a Notre Dame baseball cap and holding a container of Pearson’s candy at the Higher Ground Shelter in St. Paul.

Following his retirement in 2014, Jim attended a meeting of the Golden Domers, the senior alumni chapter of the Notre Dame Club of Minnesota, where Leo Collins* suggested the group find a service project, especially for senior alumni. Being a former board member at Catholic Charities, Jim knew right where to start.

Connecting with Volunteer Services, Jim set up an opportunity so the club could serve dinner one Tuesday every month at Higher Ground Shelter in St. Paul. But soon they had more volunteers than they had slots, so they picked up another Tuesday – and then another. Now, each week, a group of Notre Dame volunteers, not just senior alumni, serve dinner at Higher Ground Minneapolis Shelter on Monday and at Higher Ground St. Paul Pay-for-Stay on Tuesday. This is in addition to the monthly breakfast service at the St. Paul Opportunity Center started by Ron Leung over 30 years ago. Food Service Supervisor Mike DeJong says, “They are wonderful to work with in the kitchen and with the residents and guests we serve — friendly, responsive, understanding, reliable, and more. A wonderful group and they truly represent the spirit of Catholic Social Teachings.” Now, as an extension of the Friends of Dorothy Day group, Jim corresponds with over 150 alumni volunteers each week about open shifts to support Catholic Charities and says that roughly 40-50 of those volunteers are consistently serving.

Because he lives in St. Paul, near Dorothy Day Place, and attends a church in the neighborhood, this project is particularly special to Jim. Through his service, he feels proud to provide for his own community alongside individuals with whom he has a different bond, saying that serving with Notre Dame alumni has fostered such camaraderie. “It’s great to serve with someone you with whom you already have a connection!”

While COVID impacted volunteer service due to Catholic Charities’ swift and effective response to limit congregate dining, Jim is excited to see that numbers are once again increasing, and guests are stopping in for a meal, and a Pearson’s peppermint patty.

If you’re interested in volunteering, or if you have a group that would like to volunteer together, please visit our volunteer page. Thank you. We couldn’t do this important work without you!

*Leo Collins passed away in February of 2022. We are truly grateful for his commitment to service and the impact he had on the population Catholic Charities serves is immeasurable. To read more about his life of service and purpose, please see his obituary.

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