The Notre Dame Alumni Association recognized nine clubs through its most recent awarding 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, homeless communities without access to COVID-19 care, the poor and those living with disabilities, among others.
For the second straight year, four award winners have collected $5,000 awards from memorials on behalf of the late Chuck Lennon. The clubs of Boca Raton, Greater Boston, Greensburg/Uniontown and San Diego earned this funding to support the execution of their proposed projects. The clubs of Charlotte, Eastern Kansas, Eastern North Carolina, Grand Rapids and Mobile 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.
“Protecting the vulnerable and affirming the dignity and value of life at all stages are at the heart of Catholic social teaching and our Notre Dame mission,” said Dolly Duffy, executive director of the Alumni Association. “These tenets were so important to Chuck and the Lennon family, and I continue to be encouraged and energized by the creative and powerful ways our clubs network and volunteer leaders work together to advance this mission in their local communities. The initiatives developed this year are great examples of the strength and spirit of the Notre Dame family coming together to make a difference.”
The Notre Dame Club of Boca Raton in Florida will build off its honorable mention award from 2020 to become a lead sponsor for AIM (Achieve, Inspire, Motivate), an annual Catholic retreat program hosted by St. Joan of Arc parish for adults with physical disabilities. The AIM retreat annually serves 25 Catholic adults with physical disabilities to achieve ongoing spiritual and emotional growth by inspiring them to lead their lives more joyfully and meaningfully.
Another top award winner, the Notre Dame Club of Boston plans to address homelessness and racial equity by enlisting COVID-19 vaccine ambassadors to serve local shelters, assemble comfort kits and staff a 24-hour hotline to answer coronavirus-related questions. In partnership with Boston Health Care for the Homeless, club members will assist in providing comfort kits to a mobile van clinic bringing vaccines to the homeless and other underserved populations.
Another 2020 honorable mention recipient, the Notre Dame Club of Greensburg/Uniontown, based in Pennsylvania, aims to support a Summertime Movie Night program in partnership with Knead Community Cafe. The pay-what-you-can cafe offers fresh, wholesome meals to community members in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, where nearly 25 percent of citizens live below the poverty line after the town’s steel plant shuttered in 1971. The local club was an early partner with Knead since it opened in 2017, and the cafe has since become a catalyst for revitalization of the community. The movie program aims to provide a safe place for families and teenagers to gather in the evenings, as the cafe has already established itself as a community hub and lifeline for those struggling with financial and personal burdens.
The Notre Dame Club of San Diego looks to support 29:Eleven Maternity Home in El Cajon, California, after the acquisition of a second location to care for expectant mothers. 29:Eleven is a Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns Summer Service Learning Program site slated to host two learning program students this summer, and the club plans to host a number of community service events to build relationships with the mothers, students and staff. In addition to assisting with maintenance projects and collecting items for the mothers, the club plans to sponsor a summer cookout for the home, as well as encourage its members to “adopt a mother” in prayer.
The five clubs earning honorable mentions will perform a diverse array of projects that include outreach to those with disabilities, expectant mothers and babies, underserved and diverse youth and the formerly incarcerated.