Campus Ministry is set to host their annual Fall service event, Fairfield On Fire, on Saturday, Oct. 29.

This tradition was spearheaded by Campus Minister for Social Justice and Community Engagement Katie Byrnes who helped to start Fairfield on Fire seven years ago. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the past two years have been a bit different as the community faced limitations. In 2020, in place of the service that was usually off campus, Byrnes and the volunteers had to find ways to give back remotely. Additionally, last year precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing from vulnerable members of the community ensued. 

Last year, while students were able to return to in-person sites, Byrnes expresses her excitement for this year’s “return to full service!”

Byrnes explains, “We have not been able to be with many of these partners during COVID because many of them work with vulnerable populations like the elderly and kids. It is so nice to be back!”

This year there are “just over 100 students [signed up] right now with room for lots more,” Byrnes said. 

According to Byrnes students will be located in various locations. The various donation posts include the Bryant School in Bridgeport to host a fall festival and help oversee games, the ALPHA Community Services for a community cleanup and painting at a few Bridgeport housing programs, hanging out and playing games with local senior citizens and outdoor cleanup and scarecrow building with Operation Hope. 

The Alpha Community Services YMCA is located in Bridgeport. They have been dedicated to providing services dedicated to the homeless, and have been a branch of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA since 1992.

 The Alpha Community Services YMCA has grown and expanded its services, striving to provide not just temporary shelter but also a path to a better life for those experiencing homelessness. It is managing the largest family emergency shelter in Connecticut and providing supportive services to over 400 clients each year.

Operation Hope provides individuals and families the opportunity to experience change. According to their website their missions and vision include, “addressing basic needs for food and shelter, as well as offering long-term solutions to hunger and homelessness, including affordable housing, life skills training and personalized clinical support, we help people reach their potential in an environment where compassion inspires dignity and hope.”

Students who previously volunteered have had positive experiences with their day.

Fairfield University Student Association Senator Jack Legere ‘23 volunteered last year and went into Bridgeport through The Alpha Community Services YMCA. 

Legere explains, “it’s a great day to get together with a bunch of different clubs and organizations to help give back to the surrounding community.”

Legere continues, “It was really uplifting to see student participation and the gratefulness of those who were helping. Fairfield on Fire helps to remind us that giving back to the community is fulfilling in so many ways.”

Senior Connor Reardon also volunteered last year and reflected on the event.

“I really enjoyed getting out there with my friends and making a difference through Fairfield on Fire” Reardon states.

He continues, “We helped people who really needed it and made a difference that mattered. I’d highly recommend it to the Fairfield community!”

FUSA’s Chair of Academic Affairs and Senator Vinny Rotondo ‘23 explains, “participating in Fairfield on Fire managed to transform the lens through which I now see the world. This program, in particular, presents an opportunity for Fairfield Students to come to know our community neighbors right from the get-go of their college experience.”

Rotondo reflects on last year stating, “When I participated, I was placed at an elementary school, where I had the pleasure of hosting several fun activities with children. I could not think of a better opportunity for Fairfield students to begin putting their Jesuit education into radically hospitable practice.”

Byrnes relays that Fairfield on Fire is “our largest community service day of the year so it’s a great way to spend the morning serving alongside so many fellow Stags” and adds that “we also partner with local organizations to bolster the good work they do all year long.” 

While many clubs and organizations collectively sign up to volunteer, students eager to give back do not have to. Byrnes says, “you  can sign up as an individual or group and there is FYE credit for our first-year students!”

For first-time volunteers, Byrnes also relays some pieces of advice. She says, “come ready to have fun!”

Byrnes continues to mention, “you can sign up with folks you know or get to know some new people! It is also a great way to dip your toe into the amazing ways you can be involved in service all year long!”

When asked about some of her favorite experiences from previous Fairfield on Fire events, Byrnes says, “I love the enthusiasm students bring to Fairfield on Fire.”

Byrnes continues, “spending the day working for change in local projects but also sharing some love with folks who need to see a smiling face,” are also some of her fondest experiences. 

Students who still want to register should use the QR code provided to scan and sign up. If they have any additional questions they should email byrnes@fairfield.edu. For more information about Campus Ministry, visit their Life@Fairfield page.

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