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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Cats in the Community Day gives St. Elizabeth’s Health Center a makeover

Matthew Fulton
Matthew Fulton / Arizona Daily Wildcat Volunteers came to the St. Elizabeths Health Center to help renovate the premises. Duties included painting walls, creating a Ben’s Bells mural, revamping the playground, and building toy chests.

Students and faculty participated in Cats in the Community Day to remodel and improve St. Elizabeth’s Health Center on Saturday.

Partnering with Ben’s Bells Project and Beads of Courage, volunteers with Cats in the Community spent the day painting rooms and murals, creating picnic benches and toy boxes, making bracelets for patients at the health center to give them encouragement and cleaning chairs for St. Elizabeth’s.

Around 400 volunteers from all the organizations helped out throughout the day.

“It’s been a godsend for us,” said Ronda Saenz, program director for St. Elizabeth’s. “We worked very hard in the last few months with the university to complete this project, so all of our staff and our patients will be so excited when they walk in here Monday morning.”

At the beginning of the first shift, Supervisor Richard Elias of Pima County District Five, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Ward 3 City Council Member Karin Uhlich and Jory Hancock, dean of the UA College of Fine Arts, spoke to volunteers about the project and about St. Elizabeth’s Health Center.

Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat attended as well to get the volunteers pumped up.

Chelsea Cota, a visual communications senior, said that the experience was great for learning client-to-business relationships.

“The client isn’t going to 100 percent love everything that you do the very first try, so it takes a couple different meetings,” Cota said. “Really learning what suits their needs … that’s our priorities — whatever they want to best suit their facilities. Eventually we came out with something that they love. It’s all kind of crazy to see it all come together.”

Among the students and faculty who joined forces to help with the renovation of St. Elizabeth’s Health Center was Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, who worked in the woodshop building picnic tables.

“I’ve done this for seven or eight years. I come every time and it’s really a great chance to help out the community,” Comrie said. “I said earlier this morning it was a great chance to see everyone from the university kind of working on a level. It’s a whole different set of rules here; we have staff telling students what to do and students telling administrators what to do.”

Leslie Tolbert, senior vice president for research at the UA, worked alongside Comrie in the woodshop.

“We have a ball; my office talks about this all year long,” Tolbert said. “We’re [the research office] here as a team — we’re the carpentry team every year. … When I drive around town and see all the places that we’ve worked in, I love knowing that we helped.”

Student organizations came to help as well, including 12 members of Honors Student Council.

“When our philanthropy chair organized it, we just decided to do it together and though it would be fun,” said Kate Wollgast, a biomedical engineering freshman. “It’s very relaxing.”

Graduate students pursuing a degree in pharmacy at the UA also helped as a group.

“This is my last year at the U of A and I’ve been doing it every single year,” said Ana Hincapie, a pharmacy PhD student. “I think it’s a nice opportunity to give back and we have a student chapter in our PhD program and as a student group we decided to do this together.”

Free ice cream from Blue Bell was offered to volunteers as they worked and Merle’s Automotive provided lunch, as it does every year. Other corporations sponsoring the event included State Farm, Long Realty and the Marshall Foundation, a long-term sponsor who has contributed year after year, said Sheila McGinnis, director of outreach and community partnerships for the UA.

“I just want to thank the university for working with us on this project,” Saenz said. “We are very, very appreciative.”

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