Western student Caitlyn Stevenson was looking for a way to be a good neighbor.
As a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for two-year colleges, she and her team were tasked with creating a project that helped a local organization. They decided to assist in collecting donations for Catholic Charities’ Hospitality House, which is located behind Western’s Administrative Center on 7th Street in La Crosse.
The idea, in fact, came from Roger Stanford, Western’s president.
“He had recently been to an event at the Hospitality House and saw the opportunity for Western to be good neighbors,” Stevenson said. “(He) gave us the idea and we ran with it.”
Homelessness continues to be a topic of conversation in La Crosse. Catholic Charites is one of several local organizations that provide assistance to some of the area’s most vulnerable populations. The organization runs a warming shelter throughout the winter, as well as the Franciscan Hospitality House, a daytime shelter for adults experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In addition to providing food and shelter, the site offers mental health support, legal consultations, and job training referrals.
Because of Western’s proximity to La Crosse’s homeless population, Western students often observe first-hand its effect.
“We see how it impacts people’s lives, and we wanted to help,” said Stevenson. “It is part of our responsibility to be good neighbors and help out the homeless population by supporting organizations that assist them.”
Sue Graf, the Hospitality House’s coordinator, says the fall and winter seasons bring a new set of challenges for the site, which operates every Monday-Friday from 12:30-4:30 p.m.
“Donations are especially needed now that the weather is changing,” said Graf. “There is much need in the community.”
The shortage in donations is why Stevenson and Phi Theta Kappa will soon be collecting items at various locations at Western. The group will be collecting essentials such as men’s white socks, deodorant, and new or gently used t-shirts. The items are used to help homeless individuals get back on their feet.
The collection drive will be running from Nov. 1-23. Collection locations will be at Western’s Business Division office in the Business Education Center, 405 8th St. N.; the Health and Public Safety Division office in the Kumm Center, 400 6th St. N.; as well as the Integrated Technology Division office, in the Integrated Technology Center at 325 8th St. N.
“I think the Western community is very generous, and everyone wants to be involved and is always willing to chip in and help out,” said Stevenson.
“We receive many donations from this community,” said Graff. “The people in this area are very generous to those in need, and we as an organization appreciate it.”
To learn more about Catholic Charities’ Hospitality House and how to donate or volunteer, visit https://cclse.org/franciscan-hospitality-house/.
To learn more about Western’s volunteer programs and community engagement learning, visit www.westerntc.edu/community-engagement.