Christina Payne | January 10, 2017
Some families go to Disney World. Some families visit Europe. And some donate one week of their summer to return to Notre Dame and give back to the South Bend community.
During Family Volunteer Camp, Notre Dame alumni and their families live in dorms, revisit old haunts and do service work around town.
“The love for this place extends beyond the Notre Dame bubble and spreads to the South Bend community,” says Annie Envall ’05, the service programs director for the alumni association. “That’s what Family Volunteer Camp is all about.”
The camp started 17 years ago with a small group of alumni, their families and friends. Now, about 90 families make the journey to Notre Dame, taking one-week shifts in the three-week program, volunteering with 21 different organizations. Space in the program is limited and highly competitive.
In 2015, Envall says, “We had over 400 applications to the program. We’ve begun a lottery system to pick the families each year. It’s a truly random system.”
Many of those applications are from returning families. Envall says about half of last summer’s participants were veterans of the program.
“Some families have been coming for six or seven years,” she says. “A couple of families will have three generations do the camp.”
The camp costs $430 per person, which covers all meals, snacks, housing and extra activities. Some of the money also goes to buy supplies needed for the service work.
The families will do four to six hours of service a day, working at any number of places, from Hannah’s House to the Center for the Homeless to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. Families are split into small groups, led by Notre Dame student leaders or alumni association staff members. The groups visit a new site every day.