June 16, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sarah Smith, an intern in Notre Dame’s Office of Student Welfare and Development, recently returned from a trip to Joplin, Mo., to deliver relief supplies to families who were affected by the tornadoes that swept through that area of southwest Missouri last month. In the following piece, she offers her thoughts on her trip.
After the devastating storms swept through Alabama in late April, the Notre Dame Student Welfare and Development office and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) joined together to put on a donation collection. By partnering with the athletics department of the University of Alabama, we were able to ship clothes, shoes, and other essentials directly to Tuscaloosa. A week after we had started placing boxes in each Fighting Irish locker room, a tornado struck Joplin, Mo. I would be passing through Joplin on my way home to Grove, Okla., the next week. There was no question in my mind that we should use some of the donations we had collected to drop off in Joplin. (Notre Dame Manager of Student Welfare and Development) Keith (Embray) and I loaded my truck to the brim and I drove 10 hours southwest to Joplin and witnessed the extraordinary destruction. Trees where splintered and uprooted and houses were obliterated, leaving scraps of debris everywhere.
Once I exited the highway, I stopped at the first church I saw that had huge tents set up with clothes racks and cases of water bottles. This church was one of many relief sites for tornado victims I saw while I drove around town. After speaking with the pastor in charge of the site, his helpers unloaded my truck bed. The community members there were so appreciative and excited that people at Notre Dame cared about them that they wanted to gather everyone in prayer around me. It was a very touching moment to be embraced, not just by members of the Joplin community who were in need, but also members of our extended universal Catholic church. A group of 10 of us held hands as the pastor prayed in thanksgiving and for blessing over the Fighting Irish family and for my family.
Even though part of my job at Notre Dame is to do community service with the student-athletes mostly in the South Bend community, this experience impacted me more than ever. Seeing people and hearing their stories of losing everything and being able to provide some support from so far away, the hugs I received and their gratitude, I know first-hand that what we do at Notre Dame makes a difference. I wish some student-athletes could have been in that moment and could have felt and seen how important it is to continually stand in unity with community members in need. Thank you to all the Fighting Irish student-athletes, coaches, and staff who contributed to the donations for the tornado victims. I am very proud and honored to be a part of this community at Notre Dame and it will never cease to amaze me of the broad scope of impact we can have on this world by living out Our Lady’s mission.