A Week of Life-Changing Experiences.

By: Lauren Tadych, Sophomore


It can be difficult to break out of your comfort zone. It can be challenging to sign up for a weeklong trip with 10 people you’ve never encountered. But, after doing it last year in North Carolina working with Habitat for Humanity, I knew I had to sign up for another BREAKAWAY trip this year. I decided to go on the Washington D.C. trip with Center for Student Missions! For me, it was important to choose a place where I have never been. D.C. is very similar to Chicago in that there is gentrification. Basically, the neighborhoods are increasing in price and people who once could afford to live there no longer can which forces them out and as a result many of them end up on the streets. As a team, we quickly realized our purpose for going on the trip to D.C. was the same—to gain a new perspective and to be able to impact a life.34409837326_1097a482f3_o

Every day was a jam-packed schedule. It was a program set up so we could use every bit of time that we had to get the most out of our experience. One of the best activities we did was actually the very first one. We each packed a lunch and went to the train station to share a lunch with someone who looked like they could use the company. Two other girls and I decided we would walk together, and we met some wonderful people by simply offering them lunch and company. These were people who lived off the street and as we joined them in conversation they were genuinely caught off guard that we were talking to them and treating them like real people. I took time to think about our conversations and realized that it didn’t matter what we were talking about, it just mattered that we approached them and got the opportunity to speak with them. Even though talking with them made my day so much better, I know they appreciated the company even more.

34291765932_c3b2b18d5a_oWe also had the opportunity to help at a food kitchen that served breakfast to the homeless community every morning. I met a beautiful soul named Tony who had so much friendly energy—he could put a smile on any face. I got the opportunity to share a meal with him as he willingly opened up to me about some pretty serious things. He told me about his sobriety from heroine, his illnesses, about his kids who he doesn’t get to see often, and his relationship with God. He really opened my eyes to what matters the most in life and what really doesn’t. His positive attitude helped me see that nothing is so bad if you can take it and turn it into a positive. I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to meet him and get to talk to him even for a short period. Meeting Tony is something that I’ll never forget.34409747246_2eb3eea9b8_o

I had so many life-changing experiences while in D.C. for one week than I’ve had in my entire life. I built friendships with people who believe in the same things I do and some of them who don’t, and I got to make connections with people who I never would have known. I got to see the beauty of D.C. and I got to strengthen my relationship with God.

So stepping out of what’s comfortable, meeting a group of strangers, traveling to a new place, talking to the homeless, serving in new ways…well, it’s worth it and you should try it too.

Just How Lucky I Am: Reflecting on my BREAKAWAY Spring Break Service Trip

By: Jack Bronec, Sophomore


Hi! My name is Jack Bronec. I am a sophomore at North Central College studying marketing.  I am on the Men’s Basketball Team and the Vice President of Communication of American Marketing Association. I grew up St. Charles, IL where I live with my mom, dad, grandma, two sisters Margaret and Molly, and my dog named Guinness who is a Boston terrier.

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I first heard about BREAKAWAY from my mom. She said to check it out since I didn’t have plans for spring break and basketball had just ended.  After checking out BREAKAWAY on the website, I was really interested in Habitat for Humanity in Clemson, SC. Our team was made up of leaders, Kaitlin and Brittany and six other students Joy, Laura, Sophie, Noah, Mason, and me.

8In short, it was a GREAT trip, and I made some friends for the rest of my college career. This trip helped me break out of my comfort zone as I traveled to a new city, got to know new people, and donated my time to helping others. It was fulfilling to hear “thank you” so many times. It made me realize that I CAN help change people’s lives and this trip gave me so much perspective on just how lucky I am. I go to a great college. I have a great family who is not only physically healthy but mentally healthy as well, and we have good relationships. When I look at the Clemson/ Pickens County area, I see people struggling to make ends meet and simply put food on the table. I am so blessed that I am in the position I am today, and I take this for granted all too often. I need to make the most out of every situation in life and be grateful for what I’ve been given.

For your reading pleasure, below is a short summary of our week with some pictures!

DAY 1 – Travel Day 1

Saturday March 18th, 2017 – We started our trip. The first leg was from North Central College to Knoxville, Tennessee. We stayed at a church. There was a game room, basketball court, and a big area were everyone slept for the night.

DAY 2 – Travel Day 2

Sunday March 19th, 2017 – We stopped at a local 1donut shop—Markers donuts—and made our way to Clemson, South Carolina driving through the  Blue Ridge Mountains. That evening, our main Habitat for Humanity host, Cindy, cooked us lasagna and garlic bread and helped us settle into Clemson United Methodist Church for the week

DAY 3 – Work Day 1

Monday March 20th, 2017 – Today was the day—WORK DAY 1.  The house we were assigned was about 40 minutes away from the church. We met our contractor Art who gave us duct tape to make name tags. The goal for the week was to law down hardwood floor throughout the house and put up trim around the windows and doors. One of the Habitat board members owns Wendy’s so we got to enjoy as much food as possible for dinner that evening, too, and explore the river walk in downtown Greensville.

DAY 4 – Work Day 2

Tuesday March 21st, 2017 – We finished up the flooring in the bedrooms then moved our way to the hallway and kitchen and family room. Once we finished up the bedrooms we7 put a cleaner, flooring paper, and cardboard on the floor to protect them. We walked down to a little place called Hagood Mill to eat our lunch were there was a blacksmith, a mill where they used the river to make flour, and a moonshine still. For dinner, we went to Clemson University’s Church were we engaged with their Catholic student group and some faculty too. We toured campus and were able to go into the football stadium!

DAY 5 – Work Day 3

Wednesday March 22nd, 2017 – We conquered a lot this day. We finished up the flooring after many days of hard work. During our evening church dinner, I met some people that lived in St. Charles until 2014. I couldn’t believe how small the world really is and how you can relate so much to someone simply because you lived in the same place.

DAY 6 – Work Day 4

Thursday March 23rd, 2017 – Details were our main focus at the worksite with flooring and starting the trim work on the windows and framing the doors. Cindy took us to talk with some current Habitat homeowners and hear their stories—to help break down the stereotypical view of someone who may need a home. Cindy also have us a lot of the background on what it takes to get a Habitat house. She also took us to her home on a farm where she hosts weddings and more! While relaxing that evening, everyone randomly wanted to how to dance to Footloose. We spent an hour trying to practice it. We did an ok job!

DAY 7 – Work Day 5

Friday March 24th, 2017 – Our last day of work was a half day so we could hike and explore! We finished up majority of the 11windows and doors trim work. We were proud of ourselves. Cindy gave us a picture of all of us and the house in the background. I have it hanging on my wall by my desk. Art took us on a trail he blazed himself, nowhere to be found on a map, with a great view of water falls. And after that hike, we went to another trail (mapped) and found another waterfall which was huge. We all had a great time just lying in the sun, listening to the water, and reflecting on how lucky we were to be in that place, in that moment, and on that trip.

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Feed the Need: Another Round

By: Kyle Exline, Head Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Coach + The Office of Ministry & Service


Friends! Our 3rd year of hosting Feed the Need–a partnership of Feed My Starving Children, the Feed the Need coalition, and the Office of Ministry and Servicehas passed and another round is coming in 2018! Before diving into what’s ahead we wanted to take a look back and celebrate together.

To highlight, over 5,000 volunteers packed 1,003,084 meals feeding 2,748 children for an entire year on February 18th and 19th, 2017 in the Res/Rec Center on the campus of North Central College. 32519068664_a744deb92e_o

The meals packed at the 2017 MobilePack were distributed as follows:

  • Nicaragua
    • 816,480 meals went to Nicaragua through Food for the Poor. In Nicaragua specifically, Food for the Poor provides medical care through several clinics, they sponsor 22 orphanages and they also build housing units. Find out more information at: foodforthepoor.org
  • Haiti
    • 186,624 meals went to Haiti through Love A Child. Find out more information at: loveachild.com

33234447751_cf7ba396ce_kOn a personal level, in 2016 our women’s volleyball team helped out at Feed the Need and they were the ones that suggested this again to the coaching staff! We included our men’s players and we were looking at this in two ways: A) we can give back to kids in need and B) we can bond together as a volleyball family! Our day started off with a team meeting before we entered the doors! We had 14 returners and 42 first time Feed the Need volunteers (including coaches). As we were dispersed to our work stations, the men’s and women’s players split up in packs and they were able to cover seven stations. The student athletes were working together, laughing, smiling, grinding, and celebrating every box they created!33206800382_c78de373db_k
They all took this as an opportunity to spend time together and work towards a common goal off of the court. Once the bell rang, we cleaned up our stations and headed back to our chairs. They shared joy and excitement once they were completed. Once the final numbers came into circulation, they were astonished that their work was able to provide 700+ children with meals for a year in one single, hour and a half shift! They all left feeling gratified but not satisfied because they are all eager to help in 2018. We hope you can, too!

So on that note, we are excited to announce next’s year’s mobile pack dates!!!!!!

Drum roll….

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SAvE THE DATE

When a Place Becomes a Home.

By: Kaylie Rosenkranz, Student, Spring Break Service Trip Participant


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Community. Prayer. Simplicity. Service.  Bethlehem Farm’s four pillars couldn’t describe the farm’s magic more perfectly.  Bethlehem Farm was not just a service trip. It was a home.  From the very beginning when we arrived, the caretakers met us in the driveway and hugged us saying “welcome home.”  So many names were introduced to me all at once, I thought no way was I going to remember 30 other people that I’ve never met before. Yet, by the second day not only did I know their names, but their hobbies, talents, and personalities.  The caretakers, fellow students from UIC and Father Ryan High School, people of West Virginia, and us made a community a home.

Community. Yes, I expected to make some friends with others from different schools going on this trip, but I didn’t expect to make friends with the people living in West Virginia.  Community night was a night when neighbors on the mountain or people who the farm was helping with home improvement were invited to dinner and prayer. 17309382_10212062506618830_5165753652914561977_n  These people welcomed us into their community, told us their life stories, and shared their talents with us.  One man brought his fiddle and played music for us after dinner.  After everything they had lost, whether from last summer’s flood, fire, or unemployment, they still came with a smile on their face ready to enjoy great company and good food.  I learned something that night.  As long as I have faith, it doesn’t matter what challenges may occur, with His help, I will never be alone.  I will have a community that will help me.

Prayer.  We prayed before every meal, before we left for a work site, and with the family of those we were helping at the work site.  We also started and ended the day with prayer.  It was sometimes led by the caretakers or sometimes led by our work groups.  My favorite prayer was the one my group led.  It was closing prayer on the last day so we all felt like we were family. Out topic was love: love of ourselves, love of our neighbors, and love of God.  We talked about how all these types of love strength each other and help our faith grow.  We also found these types of love in the work we did at the farm.  Everything came full circle and we ended the night saying that we loved each other.  We truly did.

Simplicity.  This pillar was perhaps the hardest one of the week.  There was no technology meaning no phones, computers, or television. We even had an electricity fast one night.  The first day was rough, I was constantly reaching for my phone to text my friends or check the time, but then I realized that I didn’t have my phone with me.  Then, I asked myself the question, “Why do I need to know the time?”  It’s not like I knew what time the next activity was going to start. Time somewhat become pointless.  The concept was liberating.  I was free from the restraints of having a schedule which is something I always have at school.  Simplicity also meant saving the environment.  We had saw dust toilets and bucket showers.  I used both.  Bucket showers are now one of my favorite ways to take a shower.  The first time, it was only 30 degrees outside, but looking up at the sky while showering was amazing. A once in a lifetime opportunity to appreciate nature. the food we ate also reflected simplicity.  Most of the food was organic and came from neighbors.  This meant that we weren’t harming the soil with harmful chemicals or harming the air with CO2 when trucks drive produce to stores.  Bethlehem Farm taught me that I don’t need the comforts of luxury to enjoy life.  Everything I need is provided by nature God created.

Service.  The chores are never done when living on a farm.  We started the day with chores and then went to our work sites for 7-8 hours.  I feed chickens, raked leaves, cooked, pulled out nails from old wood, finished the siding of a roof, and started a foundation for an extension to a home. Even though it was hard work, I found joy in working with my friends and knowing that I was helping those were needed it.  Not only were we serving others, but we were ultimately serving God. We could see him through the people, food, and nature surrounding us.  God was present everywhere.

Without a doubt, I would go back to Bethlehem farm.  It’s a second home.  At first, I was looking for some big gesture or evidence of God’s presence while I was there, but then I realized that God comes silently.  I can feel the grass now.  We are on top of the hill looking out onto the vast landscape singing “Here I am Lord.”  Here I am.

To Rise & Respond: An Invitation to the Servant

By: Karli Saner, Assistant Director of Ministry & Service


Reaching from their kneeling, they take hold of a blue drawstring back. Inside they find—deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush, food, water, clothing, winter warmth, medicine and more.

“All for me?” many of them ask.

We reply, “Absolutely.”

They grin with renewed gratitude. And we take a seat next to them. We ask questions. We hear their stories. We accept them for all that they are now and all that we pray they will be. Some of them tell us where to find their friends in need.

“Ellen is caddy corner to us. You see her over there on the corner. She’s our friend and would love your company,” Wally tells us.

“Oh and Ricky is just down the street here, too,” says Cherish.

We open our eyes, squinting past the reflections of the sun beaming off buildings. We see them. We see all of them.  We rise and respond.


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On Saturday, January 21st,  Cardinals in Action (CIA)—our service group on campus invested in meeting the needs of the local community—gathered 45 North Central students to join them for the 2nd annual NCC_Cares about the Homeless initiative in Chicago.

Last year, CIA launched this program out of a member’s desire to give back to the homeless community and more importantly, break down the stigmas related to homelessness. This longing birthed an opportunity for our students to rise above what the world says about people without a home; and instead, allowed students to engage counter culturally and meaningfully with people—who have names, stories, families—just like each of us.

This year, CIA nearly tripled their impact in care packages created and delivered as well as the number of student participants. Partnering with Yorkville’s 5th grade class at Autumn Creek Elementary School (ACES), a student’s home church, and the North Central community and Naperville businesses, we were able to create 120 care packages! My sister is one of the 5th grade teachers at Autumn Creek and when I asked about the fifth grade joining us in the process she said, “We have to. There’s no question. Our students need to continue to learn from college students and others who model selflessness and positivity in this world right now.”

ACES came through for CIA, collecting enough items throughout the month of December to pack 60 care packages for our project! I had the opportunity to go into the school and personally witness the packages being put together. There I saw 5th graders thrilled to do something good for someone else—thinking beyond themselves over the holiday season and embracing the opportunity to put a smile on someone else’s face.

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And that’s exactly what those care packages offered 120 of our homeless friends on the streets of Chicago—a smile and hope. The students and I divided into 5 teams that scattered to into multiple neighborhoods downtown Chicago.

There we heard stories of people who hadn’t been acknowledged in over a week; a couple whose house had burned down and lost everything giving them no choice but to live on the streets; a veteran who has cancer and is fighting to live; a gentleman (who I recognized from the previous year) unable to find a job because of the way he looks, leaving him on the streets for now 17 years; and so many more. All their stories were filled situations and circumstances any person of any background, faith, career, etc could fall into. And yet, society tells us the homeless are “vagabonds” as a result of their own mistake. And while perhaps some find themselves in the position they are in because of their own mistakes, they are not beggars. These friends my group met that day and all the others…

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They are people—they are you and me—worthy of being seen, heard, and given another chance. They care deeply for one another, supporting their friends in similar situations. They are some of the most joyful and thankful individuals in this world, counting each day as a blessing. And, they invite each of us to think differently and live differently—to rise and respond to a hurting, broken world each and every day.

Because I Went Anyways…

By: Nikki Merriss, Senior


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“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Roy T. Bennett

The quote above is on the back of a t-shirt I was given for a service trip with BREAKAWAY and I’m sure can be found in many other places. There’s a million reasons this quote is important, but I’d like to focus on what it means to me at the moment. Right now, this doesn’t just mean doing things I feel uncomfortable doing. I’m pretty accustomed to discomfort at the moment as far as my life is concerned. As a student who has worked as a camp counselor and orientation leader, has played a college sport, and has been a student leader for groups on campus, discomfort has become a way of life for me. For these reasons, I hold this quote near and dear to my heart. I’ve learned through my involvement that good things such as learning and personal growth develop out of stepping into the unknown. We learn from the scary experiences of doing things we’ve never done before, etc. Even with this knowledge, I still struggle with stepping into the unknown myself sometimes.

That being said, I have yet to seriously regret a time where I’ve stepped into the unknown. While sometimes I may not expect much from a situation or event, I always leave with something I value. It could be a friendship, maybe a lesson, or possibly even a new path directing me where to take my life next. But defining discomfort through the unknown is putting it too broadly. Sometimes we think we know how something’s going to be and make decisions based on that. This, I believe, is even more dangerous than simply deciding to opt out of something because of fear.

This brings me to defining what the quote above means to me at the moment. As a typical human, I attempt to predict the future and make decisions based on those predictions. The problem here is, people are really terrible at predicting how something might be. The average human who views the world with tunnel vision has a difficult time seeing beyond their idealistic predictions that skew reality. 30986589663_a0e9bf30ce_oLike any average person, I’ve done this too many times in my life. I’ve said to myself, “Well, it’s a waste of time to go here because it was boring when you went to a similar place.” But how similar are two places really? Aside from the typical McDonald’s chain kind of place, most places are pretty unique and unpredictable. Additionally, does a place really matter? Isn’t it the people that you go to a place for anyways?

Well, as the typical human I am, I once again made a poor prediction. I was asked about a month and a half ago to help lead a service trip with Appalachia Service Project in Jonesville, VA for BREAKAWAY. Right away, I took the opportunity because I was excited to work with the chaplain at my college, and I knew it would add to my experiences as a leader on campus. As the trip approached, I began dreading it more and more. In all honesty, I just wanted to stay home, work, and maybe watch some TV. I recently finished a long term at school, and all I yearned for was a little relaxation. The fact that I couldn’t back out from my commitment was the only reason I woke up at 5am to load up in a van and help drive our group of nine to VA.

I guess I could have come up with excuses to not go. Maybe I could have said I was having family issues, or I might have even said I simply didn’t want to go anymore. Based on the situation, I wouldn’t have chosen to opt out and I am absolutely thankful for that. Because I went anyways, I built deep relationships with eight other wonderful humans, I was able to serve an amazing family, I learned some valuable lessons, and I made some amazing memories. Going anyways, and doing anyways is what stepping out of your comfort zone is all about.

Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t always mean doing something even though you’re nervous. It doesn’t always mean doing something you’ve never done before. I live in the Appalachian Mountains, I’ve served people before, and I’ve worked alongside the chaplain to lead students before. Going on this trip didn’t add a ton of newness for me. I wasn’t nervous, I didn’t go anywhere I’d never been before, and I didn’t think I’d be doing anything I’d never done before. Because of this, I didn’t believe, at first, that I would be missing much if I didn’t go on the trip. I didn’t expect to gain a ton from going, but I’m glad that this trip showed me how bad I can be at predicting how something might be. The trip I had over DTerm to Jonesville, VA was nothing short of spectacular and I am overwhelmingly blessed to have gone. I made friends, made memories, and learned a ton.30955340264_5c8a992814_o

So I guess what I am trying to say here is that stepping out of your comfort zone is about doing it anyways. Doing even though you don’t always feel like it, doing even though you aren’t sure what it’s going to be like, and doing even though you’re afraid of the outcome. To me, there’s nothing more important in life than experience. We can choose to go out and learn by living, or we can just stay in and watch others live as the time passes us by. While sometimes it’s nice to just stay in and watch my favorite show, I am much more thankful for the times I decided to go do something even though there was a comfy couch sitting at home. By venturing out, not only do I have the chance to add a little something to the world around me, but the world around me also has a chance to add a little something to me. So next time you don’t feel like doing something, just do it anyways and see what happens. Maybe it’ll suck, but maybe it’ll be awesome. The 50% chance of it being awesome is totally worth it.

Service Touches My Heart: A Reflection on Intersection 2016

Wes Ellis, Senior and Vice President of Cardinals in Action


The music is booming, and my new friends and I are pulling out ALL of the stops on the dance floor.  The sprinkler.  The cabbage patch.  The funky chicken.  The running man.  Even the Whip/Nae Nae!  I’m a big boy, so after approximately 2 minutes of continuous dancing, I need to take a seat and catch my breath.  While catching my breath, I survey my surroundings.  The atmosphere is electric, and the room is filled with nothing but smiles and laughter.

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Last Saturday, I—along with many volunteers from Intersection (North Central’s Day of Service)—helped to set-up and facilitate a big carnival for the special needs community to enjoy through an organization called Touch my HeartThe carnival featured many games and activities: basketball, beanbags, dancing, hockey, face painting, dancing, coloring books, a bounce house, balloon animals, and dancing to name just a few!  (The dancing was a real hit for me if you’ve yet to figure that out.)

All joking aside, the dance floor was truly where some of the most special momentsoccurred during this event.  Here, volunteers and carnival attendees came together to have a great time.  I met a friend who loved to high-five to the beat of the music.  Another friend was a master at lip-syncing all of the Michael Jackson classics.

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I couldn’t help but feel that the dance floor helped to create an immediate sense of community amongst people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to interact otherwise.  Isn’t that awesome?  Plus, I racked up over 20,000 steps on my Fit Bit that day.  Boom.

Volunteering with Touch my Heart, simply put, touched my heart!  We were able to give people with special needs a fun, safe environment in which they could enjoy themselves.  Just through giving a few hours of our time at Intersection, we were able to make a big impact.

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I desperately want my family, friends, and peers to realize that service is not an entirely selfless activity.  In fact, it can be selfish.  That may sound radical, but through my experiences in volunteering, I know this to be true.  Do you notice how I’ve written a lot about myself and how volunteering made me feel rather than focusing on others?  That’s because it made me feel…a lot!  Good feels.

I was able to take away something from Intersection, just as I am able to take away something from every service experience.  I fervently believe that service is just as enriching for the volunteer as it is for the person in need.  My experience at Intersection just furthered that belief.

My only regret?  I didn’t play in the bounce house.  What was I thinking?!

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Photo rights: Touch My Heart