This spring, the Notre Dame Alumni Association recognized nine clubs as recipients of the Lennon Life Prize, part of the Chuck and Joan Lennon Gospel of Life Initiative — a set of programs aimed at activating the University’s robust clubs network to be forces for good in upholding the value of life at all stages.
The Notre Dame clubs are recognized for their involvement in a number of projects that will assist mothers and their children, refugees, victims of domestic violence and people facing homelessness, food insecurity and chronic illness. Other projects will aim to increase access to affordable housing and early childhood education.
For the third straight year, four award winners have collected $5,000 awards from memorials on behalf of the late Chuck Lennon. The clubs of Central New Jersey, Charlottesville, Fort Wayne and Lehigh Valley earned this funding to support the execution of their proposed projects. The clubs of Buffalo/Western New York, Lake County, Maryland, Southeastern Virginia and Staten Island received $500 honorable mention awards.
The Lennon Gospel of Life Initiative was co-created with Chuck Lennon and his wife, Joan. Chuck, who served as executive director of the Alumni Association and associate vice president of University Relations for 31 years, retired in 2011 and passed away in 2019.
In concert with the Catholic Church’s long-standing defense of all human life, the Gospel of Life Initiative seeks to provide support to vulnerable populations around the world, and the Lennon Life Prize supports clubs as they generate a host of ideas to impact their local communities through innovative use of funding and involvement of club members.
“In helping us put together this initiative, Chuck and Joan Lennon were passionate about their Catholic faith and the accompanying call to protect the vulnerable and affirm the dignity of life at all stages,” said Dolly Duffy, executive director of the Alumni Association. “These values are at the core of Notre Dame’s mission and that of the Alumni Association, and I am ceaselessly amazed at the work of our clubs and volunteer leaders to uphold these values in their local communities.”
Central New Jersey
The Notre Dame Club of Central New Jersey plans to support women and children in residence at the Center for Great Expectations in Somerset, New Jersey, as they recover from trauma, abuse and addiction. The club aims to build upon its existing volunteer service at the center to host gatherings around various holidays, as well as assist with on-site beautification efforts. Their volunteers’ primary focus is on helping the organization “provide a stable, secure and warm atmosphere within which residents and their children can heal and begin to rebuild.”
The Notre Dame Club of Charlottesville plans to implement multiple projects to repair and renovate Casa Alma, the Charlottesville Catholic Worker community, in response to the increased needs for temporary and crisis housing in the area. The proposed year-long partnership will focus on the recently purchased Carlton House, a multi-unit building with the ability to provide long-term affordable housing for seven to 10 individuals, as well short-term “hospitality quarters” for women and children facing sudden housing crises.
Another top winner, the Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne, looks to support the launch of the St. Joseph Missions Women’s Shelter, the only shelter exclusively serving single women experiencing homelessness in the Fort Wayne community. The club plans to partner with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend as well as various community organizations with expertise in health care, mental health, nutrition, education, faith development, transportation and employment. Once operational, the shelter “will provide a safe, supportive and structured environment that honors women’s dignity and empowers them to become self-sufficient,” according to the organization.
In response to the ongoing refugee crisis, the Notre Dame Club of Lehigh Valley looks to partner with Bethany Christian Services, the Refugee Community Center of Allentown and the Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program to sponsor and assist local refugee families. In the last decade, the number of displaced people around the world has doubled to more than 82 million, and the Lehigh Valley has become a regional hub for resettlement, having welcomed refugees from Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Myanmar, Venezuela and Afghanistan, among others. As a co-sponsor to a refugee family, the club will provide broad support to supplement the food budget, provide internet and phone services, subsidize rent and provide clothing and furnishings while the family works toward self-sufficiency.
The five clubs earning honorable mentions will perform a diverse array of projects addressing issues related to homelessness, food insecurity, early childhood education, domestic violence, human trafficking and childhood chronic illness.