Just Add Wabash: Wabash Day 2005

February 3, 2006

More than 16 regional alumni associations participated in work projects in their communities for the first "Wabash Day," a day of service declared by the National Association of Wabash Men. But what good can a few hours on a fall weekend do? Ask the women and children at the House of Bread and Peace in Evansville.Sarah Wolf got goose bumps the Saturday before Halloween, but not the type you’d expect.

"This is incredible," said Wolf, director of the House of Bread and Peace, as she watched a dozen Wabash College alumni assemble and set up the play set they had purchased for this Evansville shelter for women. "This is something we’ve needed for a long time."

Evansville psychiatrist Dr. Thom Liffick ’73, medical director emeritus at the Southwestern Indiana Mental Health Center, organized the project through the Evansville Association of Wabash Men.

"I was aware of The House of Bread and Peace through my work as a psychiatrist," Liffick said. "They have taken in homeless individuals that they have asked me to see, and they have taken in patients of our programs who became homeless. They’ve been the most accommodating shelter in our area for these special-needs folks, so I respect their work."

When Liffick called Wolf, she told him about the need for a play set. She said they’d considered appealing to an organization to purchase a set, and another organization to build it, but had not been able to put together the funding or manpower.

"I called Tom Topper ’70 and pitched the idea to him, and he suggested that we offer to purchase the set and put it together," Liffick said. "We scheduled a meeting of the Evansville Association of Wabash Men and developed the plan of action."

Almost a dozen Evansville alums, along with Tom Cheek, father of Garth Cheek ’06, showed up at the shelter’s backyard before 9 a.m. on Saturday. Liffick, who’d spent a good portion of the previous evening sorting play set parts and fasteners and preparing them for the various teams who’d be working on them, put every man to work. Conor O’Daniel ’93, Ryan Rapp ’98, Paul Parkison ’89 and association president Tom Topper ’70 teamed up to assemble the play tower; Lee Hoagland ’94, Buddy Hoagland, Aaron Armstrong, and Reece Collins ’04 worked on the slide and climbing wall; while Paul Ferguson picked up an ax and removed roots from the play area, and Cheek, Liffick, and his father-in-law (and contractor!) Chris Nix prepared the grounds and made assorted repairs.

With occasional good-natured jabs, plenty of laughter, and no shortage of sweat and teamwork, the group of doctors, lawyers, a banker, a researcher, a teacher, and businessmen wrapped up the project just after lunch. Anxiously awaiting completion were three children who’d spent the last hour staring from the window in anticipation. The door opened, the kids ran out, and the play set got its first workout.

"When good things come together like this, it gives you goose bumps," Wolf said. "We try to help the women who come here feel at home. To have a place where their children can play, and where the women can relax and watch them, can make a big difference."

See Wabash Day Photo Album


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