Alums give back during SMWC Week of Service

May 25th, 2016 | SMWC

By: Betsy Elliott

(l to r) Lois Leinenbach Mootz ’60, Susan Eichmuller Hamilton ’66 and Rosemary Cirando Coyne ’59, among other alums, served at Providence House in Naples, Fla., a not-for-profit, faith-based, residential program for single women and their children.

Twenty-seven projects. Fifteen cities. Three countries. One goal – to serve. With a 53 percent increase in participation over last year, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College’s second annual Week of Service saw success around the world.

“We saw many new faces added to our ranks of service this year,” said Veronica “Roni” O’Connor, 1988 SMWC graduate and secretary for the SMWC National Alumni Association Board. “And many new creative ideas to bring the message of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin to those in need.”

From Second Helpings – a community kitchen that provides hunger relief and free job training – in Indianapolis, Ind., to Providence House – an organization that serves homeless mothers and their children – in Naples, Fla., SMWC alumni volunteered to feed many people in need. From Saint Roch Catholic School in Indianapolis, Ind., to Kids for Jesus in Williamsport, Ind., SMWC alumni spread the teachings of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin for the good of children. From the grotto of Mary at St. Apostle Catholic Church in Florence Italy, to Our Lady of Fatima Shrine at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, SMWC alumni beautified places of worship.

Alice Quinlan, former Woods employee, and Jenn Kersey, SMWC director of events and strategic programs, help beautify the Our Lady of Fatima shrine and garden.

“So many hands and so many hearts were outstretched over this year's Week of Service. It replenishes my soul to be involved with like-minded and tender-hearted alumni in the service of others,” expressed O’Connor. “I am super proud of the alumni board and everyone that planned and attended events, and I know they continue to serve in their everyday lives.”

Many projects were available on campus for The Woods community to get involved – Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Sunken Garden, tennis courts and Hulman Hall clean-up efforts, a blood drive hosted by SMWC Student Senate, Catholic Charities food drive hosted by Student Life, an opportunity to write letters to current residents of Providence Health Care and more.

Kymberli Payonk, 1986 SMWC graduate and mother of a current student, led the efforts to beautify the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine on the Avenue of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College campus. “I wanted to see this special shrine to Mary restored to its former glory,” she said. “It is 62 years old, and it just needed some sprucing up.”

The project saw many hands throughout the week with various people on campus joining the effort. “It was a labor of love, and the work was definitely worth it,” said Payonk. “We’ve had many people, including students, faculty, staff and Sisters of Providence mention how much they’ve enjoyed seeing the shrine shine again.”

The Week of Service further inspires alums to better communities around the world. Deacon Robert Straub ’05 has served on 11 mission trips to Honduras. For more info on Missioners of Christ, visit

Three thousand miles away, in Honduras, another alum served as a missionary. Deacon Robert Straub, 2005 SMWC graduate, helped with maintenance work within the Missioners of Christ complex, an organization that serves remote mountain areas near Comayagua, Honduras, and offers a free physical therapy clinic, among other services.

“Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and The Woods provided me a wealth of education that was not limited to book-learning,” said Straub. “She has inspired me to keep spreading the words of the Providence God.”

Week of Service projects took place in various locations around the world including

  • Saint Mary of the Woods, Ind.
  • Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Williamsport, Ind.
  • Chicago, Ill.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Louisville, Ky.
  • Naples, Fla.
  • Davie, Fla.
  • Blue Ash, Ohio
  • Coogon, Iowa
  • Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Virginia
  • Florence, Italy
  • Comayagua, Honduras