The annual fall service event hosted by Campus Ministry, Fairfield on Fire, happened over the weekend on Saturday Oct. 23. 

This year, students participated by helping out at events at Sturges Ridge of Fairfield — an Assisted Living and Memory Care facility, Green Village Initiative’s Harvest Festival and community clean ups throughout Bridgeport, Conn. sponsored by the YMCA. 

Student volunteers did a variety of activities to give back to the neighboring communities. Some volunteers participated in a corn hole tournament and worked on puzzles with the community at Sturges Ridge, students helped work the GVI Harvest Festival and other students participated in the YMCA’s clean up at nine different sites across Bridgeport including parks and outside apartment buildings. 

 Campus Minister for Social Justice and Community Engagement Katie Byrnes helped to start Fairfield on Fire six years ago. 

“When I came here six years ago, we didn’t have a ton of service on campus,” Byrnes said. 

In response to this, Byrnes helped launch the annual Fairfield on Fire event. She mentioned that it takes place in the fall as a way to introduce students to service early on in the academic year, in a way that many people can get involved. 

She emphasized the importance of service and giving back to the neighboring communities while at Fairfield.

“Here at Fairfield it’s really important to understand the chasm of poverty,” Byrnes said. “Instead of saying we’re from Fairfield, here’s all the answers, we say, ‘we’re from Fairfield, we have two hands. What can we do to help?’”

On top of giving back to the community, Byrnes describes service as a “great stress reliever” and a way to “work with your hands and not your heads for a little while.” 

Byrnes says that she hopes the service events are enjoyable for the students who attend and participate in them. 

Sophomore Rylie Murphy volunteered this year and described the event as a way for her “to appreciate human connection.” 

“It wasn’t necessarily about the volunteer work, but the stories I heard,” she said. “You get to value the people you are with because they are willing to sacrifice a bit of their time to help a stranger.” 

Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Byrnes said she was not allowed to take students off campus to do any type of service. In place of the usual in-person, off-campus service events, Byrnes adapted to the situation and found students ways to give back remotely. 

“We had folks translating documents, working to identify wifi dead spots in Bridgeport for kids doing school from home and participating in different virtual read-aloud events,” Byrnes said. “I am very excited to be returning to in-person service this year — a little piece of normal is back.”

Byrnes wants students to know that “service is a lot of fun and it’s a great way to get to know other people and give back.” 

She also says that students have access to University vehicles for free to take them to off-campus service opportunities. Interested students can also reach out to her to be matched with a service opportunity that interests them. 

In terms of service at Fairfield, Byrnes wants students to know that the “sky’s the limit.” 

“It is so generous with the abundance of what service is offered here at Fairfield for students to get involved in,” Byrnes said. 

On a typical basis, there are about 200 University students a week engaged in regular service, Byrnes shared. Some of the most popular sites involve animals, such as a local bunny rescue. 

Other regular service include “tons of stuff focused around local kids” like the Pencil Pals Program where Fairfield U students are matched with a student in Bridgeport to be pen pals for the year. There is also Habitat for Humanity, Best Buddies, a Soup Kitchen program — “pretty much everything, with all the information able to be found on Life@Fairfield.” 

In the near future, Campus Ministry will be putting together 400 Thanksgiving baskets. Interested students can reach out to Byrnes to learn more about this service opportunity and others. Her email is For more information about Campus Ministry, visit their Life@Fairfield page


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