Citizen Katie celebrates 20 years of service and community-building

Students, alumni, faculty, and staff volunteered on five service projects for the St. Kate’s tradition.

On October 7, a total of 100 students, alumni, faculty, and staff gathered on campus for the 20th annual Citizen Katie. First begun as a Resident Life activity to engage students, Citizen Katie has since grown into an annual University-wide tradition of service, community-building, and reflection. 

Citizen Katie founder and director of Housing Operations Sabrina Anderson was honored at this year’s event for her leadership shepherding the project into a program that, 20 years later, serves thousands of neighbors through hundreds of projects in multiple cities.

“I am so incredibly proud to get to work alongside such an amazing mentor who roots all of us in servant leadership,” said Amanda Perrin, director of Campus Life. “[Sabrina] is proof that Margaret Mead was on to something when she said that a ‘small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world.’”

This year, as in years past, the St. Kate’s community worked on an array of projects in collaboration with local organizations. One group of volunteers worked with the nonprofit organization Bridging, which provides donated furniture and household goods to families and individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. The group fully assembled 50 dressers, which will be donated to households Bridging serves. 

Willow Rothenberg ’25 was part of the group that volunteered with Bridging. “It was an amazing feeling to know that within a few weeks, the dressers we were making would be in someone’s home that really needed it,” Rothenberg said. 

Another group of volunteers assembled menstrual kits with the Minnesota chapter of Days for Girls, an organization whose mission is to increase access to menstrual care and education around the world. A total of 13 volunteers packed 27 kits, and prepared even more to be finished soon.

The project also served the double function of educating volunteers as they worked. Mumtaz Ahmed ’24, a public health major, surveyed fellow volunteers on their attitudes toward reusable menstrual products before and after their experience with Days for Girls. Many responders indicated they were more open to the idea of using reusable menstrual pads after learning more about them. 

“Engaging with Citizen Katie has been instrumental in kickstarting my senior honors research project on reusable menstrual products,” said Ahmed, a public health major. “On that day, I had the opportunity to gather data on knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions (KAP) surrounding reusable menstrual products. The information collected will serve as a cornerstone for my research, shedding light on more sustainable approaches to menstrual hygiene.” 

Elsewhere on campus, a group of volunteers made 25 clay bowls as a part of the St. Kate’s Empty Bowls Project. The bowls will then be used at the fall soup social on November 16, where guests can donate to take home a bowl. Event profits will support Open Arms of Minnesota, an organization that provides free nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening and chronic illness, and the St. Kate’s/CSJ Food Access Hub. 

Other volunteers also supported the Food Access Hub by tending to the community garden. Produce grown in the garden, along with other food donations, is available through the food shelf to anyone in the St. Kate’s community facing food insecurity. 

One more group of volunteers worked with the Dialysis Sweatshirt Project, assembling clothes that can be worn by patients undergoing dialysis. Volunteers completed 41 dialysis-accessible sweatshirts and prepared more to be finished soon. 

“Seeing the ballroom filled with students, alumni, faculty and staff all coming together to work alongside each other was incredible,” said D’Ann Urbaniak Lesch, assistant vice president for engaged learning and director of the Office of Scholarly Engagement. “I hope Citizen Katie participants were filled with hope, inspired by new information and learning, and motivated to continue to care for the dear neighbor, working to better the community in ways that bring them joy in the days and months ahead.”

Citizen Katie is a collaboration between Community Work and Learning, Residence Life, Student Center and Activities, the Center for Spirituality and Social Justice and Alumni Relations.

Read The Wheel’s write-up of Citizen Katie.