Students ‘Back the Bend’ through a day of service in South Bend

Author: Colleen Wilcox, Office of Public Affairs

It’s true what they say: Teamwork makes the dream work. On March 23, more than 550 University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College students took part in Back the Bend, an annual day of service in and around South Bend.

With support from the Robinson Community Learning Center and more than 20 local nonprofit organizations, students did yardwork, cleaned, painted, organized donations and participated in a variety of special events. It was the 13th year for the event, which is organized by Notre Dame Student Government. This year’s theme for Back the Bend was “Unity in CommUNITY.”

“In all, there were 25 service sites around the South Bend area,” said Kate Jackowski, a Notre Dame senior and the director of community outreach with Student Government. “I am so grateful to the volunteers, the student site captains and the community and nonprofit partners who worked together to make sure the day ran smoothly. We could not have done it without everyone working together.”

Tolu Adeyemo, a Notre Dame sophomore, volunteered at A Rosie Place, a nonprofit that serves children who are medically fragile. Staff and the volunteers hosted a spring party for children and their families.

“I volunteered for Back the Bend because I don’t get into the community much. This experience has been eye-opening. Overall, this has been a great experience,” Adeyemo said.

Students also spread mulch, supplied by the city, as part of Mulch Madness, an annual event that operates as part of Back the Bend and is organized by the Notre Dame Lead Innovation Team (ND-LIT) and affiliated students. The event also included free child lead poisoning testing by the St. Joseph County Health Department as well as soil sample analysis by ND-LIT.

“There were 173 volunteers in the Near Northwest Neighborhood, mulching around 40 houses and outside St. Paul Bethel Baptist Church, the new community playground, Unity Gardens, and the public areas around the big, red Adirondack birthday chair on the 800 block of Portage Avenue,” said Sean Miller, a junior studying science and business and a co-director for Mulch Madness.

“The soil samples from nearly every location had lead content that exceeded EPA safety levels, which highlights the importance of raising awareness about the lead problem in South Bend neighborhoods,” Miller added.

Read about South Bend’s vulnerability to lead exposure and how ND-LIT is helping.


Originally published by Colleen Wilcox, Office of Public Affairs, at on March 27.