A Rock Island organization that provides transitional housing for women and children got a helping hand Saturday from dozens of Augustana College students and Royal Neighbors of America.
St. Joseph the Worker House got a good spring cleaning, thanks to 13 Royal Neighbors chapters on the Augustana campus in Rock Island. Nearly 40 students put their muscles and energy into landscaping, cleaning out a garage, washing windows, painting and planting this year’s community garden.
Sister Bobbi Bussan of the Benedictine Sisters said the partnership between Royal Neighbors and St. Joseph began in 2007 and provides a huge boost to the nondenominational transitional housing program.
“Royal Neighbors is a steady and faithful partner, and our missions match. Empowering women, that’s what we’re all about,” she added.
Bussan, who both chairs the St. Joseph board and serves as the group’s president, said the program provides transitional
housing in a home-like setting for women and children in need. The home can serve five families at a time, offering them housing for up to 90 days. The other Worker House, a duplex located nearby, allows women and their children to reside there for up to a year.
The community garden, planted on a nearby vacant lot that was donated to the organization, grows food for those families as well as the community, the sister said.
To have dozens of volunteers, including St. Joseph’s board members, do all of the outside chores in a three-hour period “is huge for us,” Bussan said. “God is good. It didn’t rain on us. We can take cool and we can take windy, but we can’t take a downpour.”
It was both chilly and windy as the college students arrived, ready to work in the dirt, remove clutter from a garage and spruce up the properties in general.
Sarah Reemtsma, Royal Neighbors’ fraternal manager, said Augustana’s 13 chapters each involve a minimum of 10 students and represent various organizations on campus such as sororities and clubs.
“College kids today are more community-focused,’’ she said, adding that the chapters “are a natural fit.” As with all its chapters nationwide, the Rock Island-based, nonprofit fraternal life insurance organization “provides the structure and the funding for the chapters to volunteer in the name of Royal Neighbors.”
Among the volunteers were Augustana sophomores Amy Hicks of Rockford, Ill., and Molly Calhoun of Palatine, Ill., both of whom worked diligently to pull last year’s dead material from a grass-like plant.
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“We could have slept in, but it’s not as rewarding,” Calhoun said, adding that she chose to volunteer because “I heard they needed help.”
Hicks also enjoys volunteering. “It’s not like work. It’s fun,” she said. “But if my family hears about it, they’re going to want to put me to work at home.”
Bussan said St. Joseph has its own Royal Neighbors chapter, which helps provide funding for the outdoor projects as well as other incidentals it needs “to help the women get back on their feet.”
Augustana sophomore Hannah Bohn of Conifer, Colo., joined the effort through the Global Effect environmental club, which has its own Royal Neighbors chapter. A block away from the Worker House, she helped put tomato plants in the ground along with broccoli, peppers and other garden crops that will help feed the people in St. Joseph’s programs.
“We got done really fast. It’s neat to see so many people showing up. It’s a good opportunity for all of us to work together,’’ Bohn said, adding that she hopes the clubs will continue their partnership with St. Joseph.