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Mount students strengthen local community though service

November 20, 2013

Newburgh, NY -

Newburgh Ministry Free Clinic

Alexandra Kleine, a senior nursing student at Mount Saint Mary College, takes a patient’s blood pressure at Newburgh Ministry’s free clinic, under the tutelage of Dr. Frank Imbarrato, president of Christian Medical and Dental Associations – Hudson Valley. Photo by Lee Ferris.

Lending a hand at the local shelter, teaching young learners important lessons, and even helping at a free community clinic. It’s all in a day’s work for Mount Saint Mary College student volunteers.

MSMC Serves, campus ministry’s service-learning and community outreach program with campus-wide participation, has been highly successful since its inception this year.

In addition to campus events such as a coat drive and a children’s Christmas gift collection, collaborations with Newburgh Ministry, a local charitable organization, have provided many unique opportunities.

Service comes naturally to students like nursing major Diana Martinez of Garrison, NY. Two times a week at Newburgh Ministry, the busy freshman volunteers to help with day-to-day operations, such as stocking the ministry’s thrift store and performing secretarial tasks. She also enriches the education of young children through a Saturday morning “Jumpstart” program.

“As a Christian, the spiritual aspect of my life is very important to me,” she explained. “Every time I help others, I feel like I’m doing the work of Jesus Christ.”

Mount students also aid the ministry by maintaining social media outlets, such as the organization’s Facebook page, and doing other important tasks.

Newburgh Ministry Thrift Store

Mount freshman Diana Martinez serves at Newburgh Ministry’s thrift store.

Including Martinez, a dozen students serve at Newburgh Ministry on a regular basis: Coleen Jones and her sister, Maggie, of Hyde Park, NY; Stephanie Weaver of Rockville Centre, NY; Ronald Lawyer of Garnerville, NY; Annie Nguyen of Brooklyn, NY; Rachael Berglund of Vernon, CT; Maria Saladino of Campbell Hall, NY; Bridgette Leyva of Hyde Park, NY; Maggie Leclercq of Danbury, CT; Casey Veneziano of North Bellmore, NY; and Diana Survilla of West Islip, NY.

“We are thrilled with how MSMC Serves has raised our students’ awareness and participation in service related activities,” said Alexander J. LaPoint, assistant director of campus ministry.

He added, “Newburgh Ministry has been an invaluable resource in developing our program. Their flexibility and willingness to work with us has really made the initiative possible.”

The bond of service between the Mount and Newburgh Ministry doesn’t end there.

Nancy Owen, instructor of nursing at the Mount, helped launch free health fairs at the ministry, manned by students from the Mount’s community nursing courses. Owen and her students continue to educate visitors about healthy lifestyle choices, at the fairs, held on selected Saturdays.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with a population that students might not see in their other clinical placements,” explained Owen. “Everyone benefits though this kind of service.”

On Thursday mornings, Dr. Frank Imbarrato, president of Christian Medical and Dental Associations – Hudson Valley, volunteers at Ministry Medical Link, a free clinic at Newburgh Ministry. In addition to his duties as a doctor, Imbarrato leads Mount nursing students at the clinic.

Seniors Alexandra Kleine of Highland Lakes, NJ and Vanessa Saravia of Mineola, NY, recently spent six weeks serving there in a community nursing project.

“I’ve learned how to prioritize more effectively, and document things more accurately,” said Saravia. “Time management was difficult at first, but this experience has helped with that, too.”

Kleine explained that while applying her nursing techniques, she improved her patient interaction skills.

“You have to talk to patients about their medical issues, but developing a trust with the patient is extremely important as well,” she said. “You should ask about their job, their home life, and put them at ease.”

The benefit is mutual, said Imbarrato, who had been working towards creating the free clinic for quite some time. Mount volunteers, he said, allowed the project to take off.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to partner with Mount Saint Mary College’s nursing program,” explained Imbarrato, a family doctor who practices in Monroe, NY. “The students have been an absolute joy. I look forward to an ongoing relationship with the Mount.”

Also serving at the clinic are Dr. Craig Ammott and Dr. Juan Goyzueta.

Newburgh Ministry Free Clinic

Vanessa Saravia, a senior nursing student at Mount Saint Mary College, discusses medicine usage with a patient at Newburgh Ministry’s free clinic, Ministry Medical Link. Photo by Lee Ferris.

Colin Jarvis, executive director of Newburgh Ministry, says local reaction to the clinic has been very positive: Up to 20 patients are seen in the three hours it is open each week.

“And it is needed,” said Jarvis. “It’s one of the ways we serve the community.”

The clinic is one way Newburgh Ministry holds true to its mission statement, which says, in part, to “believe in the dignity and worth of each person.”

And for the students, service-learning speaks to the heart of the Mount Saint Mary College motto, “Doce Me Veritatem” – teach me truth.

Mount students have a long history of service with Newburgh Ministry, including sessions at the organization’s Winterhaven overnight shelter.

Sr. Margaret Anderson, OP, Mount Saint Mary College Board member; and Sr. Patricia Sullivan, OP, professor of mathematics; are both members of the Newburgh Ministry board.

Sr. Sullivan says the Mount students’ service has made a world of difference.

“Anytime I go to Newburgh Ministry, there’s always one of our students there – on the phone, folding clothes, or teaching local children,” she explained. “The sisters at the ministry are so appreciative of the students. They have nothing but the best to say about them.”

More than 50 percent of Mount students engage in community service as part of their coursework, or through club participation.

Students and staff amassed and donated around 2,200 pairs of new socks to those struggling in Hurricane Sandy’s wake; and a shoe drive sponsored by the Mount’s campus ministry collected dozens of pairs of shoes.

In November 2013, students collected more than 75 coats, sweaters, and jackets, as well as dozens of hats, mittens, and scarves, to be given to Newburgh Ministry.

“At Mount Saint Mary College, according to our mission, we are to educate the whole student,” said Fr. Francis Amodio, O.Carm, Mount chaplain and director of campus ministry. “Hopefully though this experience of service, it will become part of them. When they graduate from the Mount, it will be a value which they would naturally share in their communities.”