While many students enjoyed their last moments of winter break at home and faculty members returned to campus for the spring semester, Newman University Chaplain Father John Fogliasso accompanied a group of seven students to brave the frigid air of Denver for the annual campus ministry winter service trip.
The focus of the service trip is different each year. Past student groups have worked with immigrant populations in San Benito, Texas, as well as low-income families and single mothers in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This year the group’s focus was feeding the hungry.
The eight-person group departed for the trip Jan. 7. During their time in Colorado, the group performed service at a food bank, a soup kitchen and a Habitat for Humanity Restore.
“The purpose of this trip,” Fogliasso said, “is to allow students to experience the transforming effects that serving those in need can have on themselves.”
Fogliasso recalled one particular moment on the trip that he describes as being “incredible.”
After exiting a restaurant, it didn’t take long for Fogliasso to lose sight of his group by about half a block, he said. But while scanning the crowd for familiar faces, he couldn’t help but notice a man standing on the corner of the street.
“I got in a conversation with this gentleman, and as it turns out, he was homeless,” Fogliasso said. “He was telling me his story about being a supervisor at a plant in New York City. After that job, he traveled to the South and recalled doing service trips himself. He told me he never expected to be the recipient of service.
“Toward the end of our conversation, I realized I was holding a box of leftovers. I asked him, ‘Sir, would you care for this food?’ And the man said, ‘I’d never turn down food.’
“It was very moving to think how appreciative he was of this box of leftovers.”
While a service trip may not initially sound to be jam-packed with fun, Fogliasso said there were several recreational activities in addition to the service projects.
Freshman Rooslana Rusk joked, “Not to be cheesy, but the highs [of the service trip] were really just all the laughs. As for the lows, you think we could have lows at that altitude?”
The group visited local landmarks including the Cathedral, the Basilica, the Mother Cabrini Shrine and the Red Rock Amphitheater. They also visited an outdoor skating rink as well as the United States Mint, where billions of coins are produced each year. Mass was offered each day for those who wanted to participate, but attendance was not a requirement, Fogliasso said.
“I would recommend the trip to students for many reasons,” Fogliasso said. “One, it is incredibly moving to see the faces of those individuals (who) you are feeding. It’s moving to know that if we hadn’t shown up on Friday, they could not have prepared the meal and fed the 300 men and women we fed in the shelter.”
Rusk added, “Aside from what I would call perhaps the most fun way to get service hours if you need them? I found it to be a very rewarding experience — helping the less fortunate — and a fantastic way to meet people if you’re needing to branch out.”
Senior Peggy Frazier said that one of her favorite parts of the trip was working at the food bank.
“At the end of the shift, one of the volunteer coordinators gave a speech about the impact we had on the community and that heroes are those who do good deeds without other people knowing about the deeds,” Frazier said. “It was inspiring to hear how impacted those who receive the packages from the food bank are, and how much the packages we created mattered.”
One aspect that set this trip apart from past ventures, Fogliasso said, was that Daniel Bryan, the Newman director of alumni relations and annual giving, was in the Denver area visiting alumni at the time. He, along with three other Newman alumni from the area, joined the rest of the group to help with the service project.
“Daniel was a former member of the campus ministry team when he was a student at Newman,” Fogliasso said. “He attended a number of service trips through Newman, and led a number of service trips when he was a teacher, so it was great having him join us along with those three alumni.”
Fogliasso said, “This trip is open to all students. There is a little bit of a cost associated with the trip that helps pay for accommodations, travel expenses, gas, etc. But that said, if a student cannot afford the cost of the trip, we are constantly asking them to please come speak to Monica [Borger] or me and we will see what we can do to make it more affordable — whether that means providing a scholarship or some other solution.”
For those interested in learning more about next year’s winter service trip, please contact Administrative Assistant Monica Borger in the campus ministry office at (316) 942-4291, ext. 2422 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.