The city of Valparaiso, Indiana, in conjunction with Valparaiso University has just completed the tenth year of its Christmas in April project. Annually, Christmas in April brings together 300 University students with approximately 300 residents of the city of Valparaiso to work on the homes of the elderly and those who live on fixed incomes to make these homes more pleasant and habitable.
Students who volunteer to work on the day designated as Christmas in April are asked to attend a training session where they learn about the history of Christmas in April not only in Valparaiso, but also across the nation. They are informed about what is expected of them, and they are given a preview of the projects upon which they will work. In April 1999, twenty-four homes and two not-for-profit organizations were the recipients of the efforts of the Christmas in April volunteers. This number is something more than was the case ten years ago, but something less than the thirty homes upon which work was done in prior years.
University students have the opportunity to interact with community residents, and particularly individuals who represent the skilled trades (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc.), as they rework homes by replacing roofs, redoing plumbing, installing new furnaces, painting, interior and exterior areas, repairing sidewalks, raking lawns, etc. As students are involved with the Christmas in April project, they learn something about the importance of service to their community, and they also are brought into contact with people who have far fewer resources than they have. The involvement of faculty, staff, and students with the leadership and volunteers from the community has been a very helpful contributor to fostering positive Town-Gown relationships in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Christmas in April – Valparaiso web site: www.ciavalparaiso.org