By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Holy Cross student-athletes are well known for their positive contributions to the community following the school's mission of "men and women for others." Junior volleyball captain Elizabeth Watters (San Francisco, Calif.) is a shining example of this. Using the experience she received from her time at a summer internship, Watters, with members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, are determined to bring some comfort and happiness to local homeless children and their families.
Watters, who is a Religious Studies major and a member of the Holy Cross Leadership Academy, spent this past summer as an intern at Project Night Night, a tax exempt charitable organization based in her hometown of San Francisco. Project Night Night provides homeless children with a new canvas tote bag that contains a blanket, a children's book and a stuffed animal. The charity, who partners with homeless shelters, has provided over 25,000 Night Night Packages each year to homeless children through donations. The packages are designed to bring security, comfort and encourage family bonding.
To Watters, who believes it very important to give back to the community, this was a dream internship. "I was introduced to Project Night Night through my high school, St. Ignatius," said Watters. "Our Social Justice Club teamed up with PNN and collected blankets, books and stuffed animals. We organized the Night Night Packages and distributed them to shelters in San Francisco. My brother Chris always tells me, 'to those whom much is given, much is expected.' Throughout my life, I have been blessed, and now it is my responsibility to give back. Working at a non-profit is one of my dream jobs and PNN introduced me to this world. I enjoy learning about how they work and how they directly impact the community."
The internship was a very hands on experience. "I did a little bit of everything," said Watters. "I collected books, blankets and stuffies. I picked up and dropped off Night Night Packages. I advertised, worked a photo shoot and took care of the donations. My big job this summer was to work with the Napa County Shelters. I contacted seven shelters in Napa County, worked with their directors, raised money and made over 100 Night Night Packages. Every single day I did something different, I always had to be on my toes."
Through this experience, Watters really got to see how important charities are. "My internship allowed me to participate in every step of the process for providing Night Night packages for shelters; and as a result, I learned just how much effort, commitment and support you need to make a project successful," said Watters. "The organization of Project Night Night shows that a big heart and a driven mindset can go a long way."
Some of her favorite experiences form the internship included working with the founder and executive director Kendra Stitt Robins, dropping packages off at shelters and working the photo shoot.
Project Night Night has become a passion for Watters. "Project Night Night means so much because it shows how the simple things in life are the ones that count," said Watters. "We all grew up with that blanket or stuffed animal, and if you were like me, my Dad read me the same book every single night. Project Night Night provides a sense of security and a sense of home to children who might not have that."
With this rewarding experience and passion for the project, Watters decided that she wanted to increase Project Night Night in Worcester with the help of her fellow student-athletes at Holy Cross. Watters, who is on the executive board of SAAC and running the project through her class Catholic Thought & Social Action, has been touched by the support she has already received. "The support has been amazing," said Watters. "Everyone is so excited about this project and willing to help in any way possible. I already have people coming up to me about how they know someone who knits blankets or that they can talk to a bookstore about donating books. Many hands do make light work. I just can't wait for them to see how excited and thankful the children and their families will be."
The goal of the project is to work with five local shelters and to raise enough for 100 Project Night Night packages. Watters knows that this project will be a challenge, but with her experience she gained is determined to make it a success. "My internship is a great start to making this project successful," said Watters. "I learned how to contact shelters and talk with their directors to see if Project Night Night would be a good fit or would be able to provide for their children. I learned the best ways to get people to volunteer or donate."
Watters was not surprised by the positive reactions of members of SAAC. "The members of SAAC were onboard right away," said Watters. "SAAC is always looking to positively impact the Worcester community and more specifically the youth of Worcester. I love being a member of SAAC because I think it is a great way for the athletes to find ways to give back to the Worcester Community. Each sports team participates in activities that are of importance to them, and SAAC is a great way to bring all of our passions together."
Watters also loves being part of a volleyball team that is dedicated to helping people in need. "I am so lucky to play with teammates who are as passionate about helping people as I am," said Watters. "We all love to work with our little sisters in Big Brothers, Big Sisters, walk the Cancer Walk, Bench for Breast Cancer and host our pink volleyball weekend—'Pink for a Purpose.' We know that any opportunity we can help, it will positively impact someone in need."
Holy Cross head volleyball coach Erin Walker feels it is very important for members of the team to give back to the community and sees Watters as a great example of someone who has passion for giving back to Worcester. "We find it important as a program to give back to the community," said Walker. "Taking the time to reach out through programs such as Project Night Night, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and hosting a Pink for a Purpose event teaches our players the importance of supporting others. Elizabeth has contributed tremendously in organizing and getting her teammates on board with several community service projects. Her outgoing personality and persistence on each project is an inspiration to all."
Watters, who wants to work in education or for a non-profit organization after she graduates, is demonstrating what it means to be a true Holy Cross student-athlete.
To contribute to Project Night Night send donations to:
P.O. Box 2946
One College Street
Worcester, MA 01610
Or e-mail Watters for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org