Notre Dame, South Bend relationship strengthened through yard-cleaning program

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Leaf by leaf, Notre Dame and local school-aged students rake Martha Jones’ yard on a cool, cloudy fall morning. 

“I was wondering, ‘How in the world am I going to get all of these leaves?’” said Jones. 

The born-and-raised South Bend great-grandmother is in her 80s.

“It’s a little hard to get out there and rake leaves very long,” said Jones. 

But thanks to an annual one-day event hosted each fall by the Robinson Community Learning Center and the University of Notre Dame’s Circle K Service Club, Jones’ yard, and the yards of other eldery and homebound South Bend residents, are raked each fall. 

“We’re working to rake leaves,” said Notre Dame Sophomore Meghan Bolinger. 

It’s called “Turning Over a New Leaf.” 

“[They] either can’t rake it for themselves or it’s an inconvience for them to do so,” said Notre Dame Sophomore Josie McQuillan.

“It’s nice to have neighbors and friends and community help like this,” said Jones. 

Lu Ella Webster helped start turning over a new leaf 18 years ago. 

“We figured that once a year, this is something that we can give back to them,” said Webster. 

This year, 60 volunteers raked the lawns of 38 houses. 

“It’s so great to just receive the satisfaction and the fulfillment that people are so grateful for these little acts,” said Bolinger. 

But the program’s impact goes beyond a clean yard. 

“It definitely helps to get out of the Notre Dame bubble,” said McQuillan. 

Volunteers, homeowners, and organizers all saying, it turns over a new leaf between South Bend and Notre Dame. 

“For a long time there was not a relationship between the university and the neighborhood,” said Webster.  “Now that the being developed."

“When they [the neighbors] see something like this and know that they are helpful, they’ll come around and they’ll talk and they’re friendly,” said Jones. “It’s almost like you’ve got another family.”

To sign to have your leaves raked next fall, call the RCLC at (574)631-8759 or email [email protected] and ask for Lu Ella Webster. 

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