Finucane Service Project Celebrates 25 Years

Monday, August 21, 2017
Students pause during the Finucane Service Project

For those coming to Rockhurst University as first-time students, there are plenty of new traditions to learn.

And one tradition that has stood the test of time is the Finucane Service Project. Now in its 25th year, the project sends hundreds of new students, as well as faculty, staff and community volunteers, to sites through the Kansas City area for an afternoon steeped in the Jesuit ideal of creating “men and women for and with others.”

For new students, it’s a way to get to know some of their new classmates and get acquainted with some of the opportunities to get involved around what is in many cases their new home.

Luis Martinez, a Rockhurst senior and orientation leader, said he remembers feeling kind of nervous during his own orientation when his bus pulled up to his Finucane service site. But that feeling quickly subsided.

“Seeing the impact it has on the local community as well as the students on campus is what makes Finucane a great Rockhurst tradition,” he said. “As an upperclassman, my favorite part of the Finucane Service Project is to see all the returning sophomores, juniors, and seniors participate. It really demonstrates how much new student orientation and more specifically the Finucane Service Project has an impact on students at RU.”

It’s all in the spirit of the Rev. Bill Finucane, S.J., a longtime director of campus ministry at Rockhurst who was known for saying the University should be “a bridge to the neighborhood through service and fellowship,” a spirit that carries on today. The project was established in his name when Fr. Finucane passed away in spring 1993 and first took place that August. In addition to the hundreds of others, Fr. Finucane’s family still takes part, as well, helping students make blankets for patients at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Judy Shifrin, a resident in the Squier Park neighborhood who helps with its community garden project, said the small plot of land in an otherwise residential area is a resource for the neighborhood, built primarily by a small group of residents who volunteer when they can. Having a whole team of students meant that projects that neighborhood group would do little-by-little — like digging a trench through dirt and rock to run a water line for the garden’s orchard — were done in a day.

“The help is great, but I just love to see their spirit and attitude in doing it,” she said. “The energy and the willingness just kind of blows me away.”

There were 24 different sites for the 25th Finucane Service Project, with students doing everything from painting and cleaning houses alongside Christmas in October to weeding and building community gardens to helping beautify Kansas City’s Main Street corridor. In the Center City neighborhood, near Virginia Avenue and 34th Street, students were working in a rain garden adjacent to a garden and orchard that helps feed residents in this small community. Freshman Brooke McGinnis and Kaylee Rose both said the day had had its challenges — 90-degree heat and full sun — but neither minded much.

“It’s worth it,” McGinnis said of the sweat. “That’s why I really like Rockhurst, because of the service that we get to do, and getting into it the second day was really awesome. I don’t mind sweating as long as I know it’s going to help somebody else.”