CUC Students Give to the Community on Service Saturdays


Lydia Stucki

CUC volunteers clean the pews at First Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago on Sept. 17.

Tessa Wienss

CUC’s Ministry to Chicago, a branch of Spiritual Life, connects with various local community organizations for service opportunities called Service Saturdays.

Past service events included making tie blankets for Project Linus, gardening, putting up Christmas decorations at First Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Chicago, and meal distribution. 

Jeremiah Schultz, leader of Ministry to Chicago and a Spectator contributor, said that the goal of Service Saturdays is “to give students a consistent service opportunity, to hopefully engrain service into our campus culture, and to become service-oriented people because we are called to be service-oriented people.”

Nearly every Saturday, CUC students travel across the Chicagoland area completing projects for churches and local community organizations. At First Saint Paul’s, which is located at 1301 N La Salle Dr. in Old Town, students provided “a cocktail of services,” said Mike Cacicio, a chairman and member of the Board of Trustees at First Saint Paul’s. 

During the week, Cacicio creates a list of projects that need to be done around the church, including basic maintenance projects, groundskeeping, cleaning, and decorating. When the volunteers arrive, they check off whatever they can in the time they are there. 

“When I know the Concordia kids are coming, there’s an extra spring in my step,” said Cacicio. “It adds energy to everything else. They genuinely engage with each other and those who come to the church.”

The first Saturday that the CUC students traveled to First Saint Paul’s, they cleaned the church library. The painstaking process involves taking every book off the shelves, washing the shelves, then sorting the books between ones to be kept and those to be donated. 

With only two people working on it, “this project took three days,” said Cacicio. “The CUC volunteers took one look and said, ‘We can do that.’ They immediately deployed like a group of army ants and cleaned the whole library in the next hour. I was flabbergasted.” 

First Saint Paul’s also engages in various outreach efforts within their community. One of the resources they offer are occasional foot clinics for the local homeless community. Guests can come in, meet with a podiatrist free of cost, receive a new pair of shoes, and get a meal. Service Saturday participants set up the fellowship hall at the church to look like a foot clinic and a shoe store, with shoes organized by size and color. 

The students also get to engage in conversation with the guests, and multiple volunteers listed this part of the day as their favorite. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the interactions with the service sites and the people there was limited, and this is the first semester since the lockdown that students got back into meeting the people they are serving. 

“One of my favorite parts about Service Saturday was getting to share a little bit with the guests,” said freshman Joey Shubat. “We got to know people from a different background, joke around, and bond with guests and fellow volunteers.” 

First Saint Paul’s partnered with the Chicago Help Initiative during the pandemic to distribute meals to the Chicagoland area. The goal of this is to provide meals and support for those experiencing homelessness in Chicago. Volunteers sign up to prepare bagged meals, which then are collected at a site, First Saint Paul’s being one of those sites. 

“Before the lockdown, we were collecting and about 110 meals per week,” said Cacicio. “At the height of the pandemic we were distributing between 3,000 and 5,000 meals per week. Now it’s back down to about 1,000.” 

Cacicio describes service as being on the field in the action versus sitting on the bleachers. He said, “on the field, you’re applying what you’re learning and you see it work. It’s very powerful.” 

Schultz described how service impacted the student volunteers in a personal way. “For students, actually going and serving is a fulfilling experience, because it’s a good and right thing to do. That feels good.” 

Service Saturdays will continue to occur and they are always looking for more volunteers. Information can be found on posters around campus and in campus-wide emails.