What does it mean to “be more?”
At Fontbonne, it means faculty who engage students to think beyond themselves. To think of their role in the world and how they can improve it. It means looking at community service as an integral part of the college experience — and beyond. And it means students and alumni shaped by a set of values that provides a life-long touchstone.
Student Organization Partners with Community Group
Fontbonne’s chapter of Enactus, a national nonprofit organization that brings students, educators and business people together to enact social entrepreneurial change, has partnered with Criminal Justice Ministry in St. Louis. The collaboration gives students real-world experience, while providing the local nonprofit with the energy, connections and manpower of the student group. And this year, an alumna and a local company have gotten involved as well.
“CJM helps former offenders with job skill rehabilitation,” explained Mark Alexander, Fontbonne business instructor and advisor to Enactus. “The organization offers a program — new in 2016 — in which participants make products to sell. It’s not full-time work, but it’s paid, and it helps them get back on their feet.”
When recently released, low–level offenders sign up for the program, they go to work making pet products to sell in the local St. Louis market. They produced dog scarves and treats initially, and, in the near future, program directors expect to expand their offerings into doggie beds too.
Fontbonne’s Enactus team has been involved since the program’s beginnings a year ago. They’ll continue their collaboration throughout the 2017-18 academic calendar as well, assisting with a business plan and marketing campaign, providing input and advice, collaborating with other Fontbonne departments, and exploring growth opportunities. One student even created an accounting program to help CJM maintain sales records.
The program faces challenges, however, including a lack of resources and equipment — specifically serger machines, similar to sewing machines, used to create a finished edge on the dog scarves. Aware of this, Enactus president Yuri Khechoyan reached out to Fontbonne’s fashion merchandising program, which connected him to Erika Kuhn ’16. Kuhn is a recent Fontbonne graduate now working as the digital marketing coordinator for St. Louis-based Tacony Corporation — a manufacturer of Baby Lock brand sewing machines.
“I was first contacted by Dr. Liljequist, one of my professors,” explained Kuhn. “She told me about the service project Enactus had selected this year and directed me to contact Alexander. He was very helpful in providing information about the Criminal Justice Ministry that illustrated the need for such a donation.”
Kuhn said she thought the Tacony/Enactus partnership was a good match. And even though she was not involved in Enactus during her time at Fontbonne, she realized the value of having a student organization like Enactus on campus as well as the impact they were making with local organizations.
“I felt this was a great opportunity to give back to the university that helped me so much,” she said. “This project also goes hand in hand with Baby Lock’s motto: ‘For the Love of Sewing.’ Baby Lock strives to foster the love of sewing in every individual who uses their machines.”
Tacony and Fontbonne already have a long-established relationship. Baby Lock President Steve Jeffery is a member of the Fashion Merchandising Advisory Board, and Fontbonne fashion merchandising students use Baby Lock machines in their sewing courses.
Kuhn and Fontbonne’s Enactus team will be on hand this fall when they officially present the machines to CJM. Their gift makes it possible for more individuals to participate in the program, gaining the skills and job experience needed to re-enter society.
As Fontbonne’s Enactus students continue their involvement, it is evident that collaboration and connection go a long way to help the community. And they’re always looking for additional alumni and community assistance. If you want to get involved, contact Mark Alexander at email@example.com or 314-889-1406.
Be More at Fontbonne
Fontbonne’s department of campus ministry welcomes all students with open arms — no matter their faith background. Join us!
Service, Diversity & Social Justice
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