It is impossible to deny the heat of a Phoenix summer, and with temperatures soaring particularly high this year, Phoenicians are especially eager to find a way to cool off. But on a recent morning, the residents at our affordable housing communities didn’t have to look far, as a team of volunteers from the University of Mary Summer Institute brought the cool to them.
The University of Mary Summer Institute is an annual three-day camp for local Catholic high school students to prepare for college. Put on by the University of Mary, the Summer Institute provides classes about Catholic identity, college preparation and service. The students are leaders in their schools and parishes, representing more than 10 local parishes and a variety of high schools.
On the final day of camp, the group has an opportunity to put their faith in action through a service project. For the last two years, Catholic Charities has had the privilege of partnering with the Summer Institute for the service project, and year after year, we are blown away by the student volunteers. They are compassionate, humble, loving young men and women, and it is an honor to have them.
Creating Community with Volunteers
The group of 49 volunteers split into two teams to serve the Verde Villas and Desert Willow communities. Equipped with a variety of games, water toys, and a desire to serve, the teams brought energy and excitement to the communities. The event, called the Summer Kickoff Party, was far more than just a party. It was an opportunity for the community to gather together, for the needs of the community to be met, and for lasting friendships to be forged.
At Verde Villas, the desire to serve shone through, as volunteers saw a need and filled it. The event got off to a slower start than anticipated, so the team cleaned the community kitchen, the game storage, and the Kidz Corner supply area. When they noticed that supplies were running short, they even went and bought new supplies! But after a slow start, residents began trickling in to find clean, rejuvenated space and some great activities for the children. The volunteers engaged with the children, blowing bubbles and finger painting, all while sharing laughter and smiles.
At Desert Willow, the volunteers set up stations around the community. Sidewalk chalk covered the concrete, games filled the office area, and the pool deck came alive with pool toys and squirt guns. The community came alive with sounds of laughter and splashing, as children poured out of their apartments to join the fun.
At both communities, the University of Mary team provided pizza for the families. As the community sat together enjoying a meal, volunteers and residents shared stories and learned more about one another.
Summer at Our Communities
Summer can be a particularly challenging time for parents living on a low income. With children out of school, parents can be stretched to find activities for their children. Kristy Enricco, resident services coordinator from Verde Villas says, “Summer is a challenging time here because our children are out of school and the parents are trying to find a daycare provider or someone to watch them at a reasonable price that they can afford. It is nice to have activities for them to get involved with and keep them busy.”
Events like the Summer Kickoff Party help to fill that need. Our affordable housing communities offer a variety of programming throughout the week to meet the needs of parents and children alike. Activities range from parenting classes to movie nights. Each is designed to bring the community closer, and to be a service to the residents.