Back the Bend is Back

Author: Corinne Quane

Back the Bend is Back!

Corinne Quane

For over 10 years, Notre Dame student government has organized “Back the Bend”— a day dedicated to service in the surrounding community. April 2 marked its 12th anniversary and saw the most volunteer sign ups in Back the Bend history. Over 700 students from the tri-campus community and other local colleges participated. 

Each year, a variety of organizations from the local area sponsor different projects. This year, projects ranged from book shelving to invasive species removal. One of this year’s sponsors was Unity Gardens, an organization that maintains over 40 gardens in the South Bend and Mishawaka area. Anyone is welcome to visit and pick produce for free — an initiative that helps give low income families access to fresh produce. Volunteers helped lay down soil and mulch at the organization’s main garden.

Back the Bend was first organized in 2009. From the start, the program has been student led. Members of the ND Student Government cabinet — Mary Elizabeth Stern, Director of Faith and Service, and Erica Maggelet, Director of Community Engagement and Outreach — worked with the Robinson Community Learning Center to organize volunteer projects with community partners this year. Since its inception, the goal of Back the Bend has been to foster community between South Bend and local college students. These relationships are formed around a common mission to revitalize the city, whether it be through the creation of new recreational areas or working to spread awareness about community issues such as lead poisoning found in local soil. 

Even more special this year was Back the Bend’s return from a two year hiatus due to Covid-19. At first, Stern and others worried that only a few students would sign up. Instead, over 700 students volunteered, shattering the previous record of 600. 

“The fact that we have broken the record after two years off, by such a large number, sends an incredible message to South Bend and to Notre Dame. Our students care, we want to be involved and we miss connecting with the community,” said Stern.

First-year student Claire McArthur enjoyed her first Back to the Bend. “It was a really cool experience! I loved being able to change up my weekend routine with something different. I wish they had events like this more often,” she said.