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Getting the hands dirty

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Driving past Archbishop Bergan Catholic upper school Friday morning, there wasn’t a whole lot of activity happening, in fact, the lights were off in the hallways.

This is because there were no students seventh through 12th grade inside.

But while class wasn’t in session, there was still a whole lot of learning going on for the 120 students out in the Fremont and Omaha communities making a difference during the annual Bergan Community Service Day.

Seniors were in Omaha at the Open Door Mission, juniors worked on projects with Rebuilding Together and sophomores and freshman volunteered their time at numerous businesses around town, including Care Corps, Uniquely Yours, Habitat for Humanity and Lutheran Family Services.

“Every year we have a day dedicated to this,” said Michael Vanek, event coordinator and leader of the Campus Ministry Program. “Then in the winter we go to nursing homes and visit the elderly. This is the biggest one (event) we have, and then it’s more of a half-day type deal when we go to the nursing homes.”

Part of being a student at Bergan is realizing that it’s important to give back to others and the community,” Vanek said.

Each year, students seventh through 12th grade are required to complete 20 hours of community service – 10 per semester.

Vanek said that the event takes about a month to plan.

“A month ago I sent out emails everywhere I could think of that might need help with something,” he said. “We also get some calls for parishioners who have good projects for students.”

While in years past students have worked at parishioners homes on the service day, Vanek said that in recent years there’s been a push to tackle bigger community projects.

“We like to have our kids complete their individual service hours doing some of these other projects,” he said.

The day also serves as a way to get students to interact with their community. They meet new people, learn new things and make long-lasting memories all while doing something positive for other people.

Why is this service so important?

“Service is Christ’s message – it’s in the gospel,” Vanek said. “He says that whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.”

Vanek added that many students aren’t thrilled at the beginning of the day to be working, however, their attitudes generally shift as the day goes on.

“Sometimes up front they aren’t too excited,” he said. “But once they get going they have a good time. They are out here with their friends and they have a lot of fun. They normally have lots of good things to say about it when they are done.”

While planning the Community Service Day is a lot of work for Vanek, the end outcome makes it all worth it.

“Now I can take a deep breath and relax a little,” he said. “Before (the event) it’s kind of white-knuckle hoping it all comes together, and it did, so I’m happy about that.”

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