Good samaritans of Seattle

The citywide mission of Urban Involvement club

Uriah Aguon, Staff Writer

Urban Involvement site leader Jordan Mielbrecht and two volunteers prepare dinner plates. (Courtesy of Jordan Mielbrecht)

Not too far from campus, there is a tent set up under some trees on the side of the road. Underneath it are worn-away chairs, sleeping bags, and some miscellaneous objects. That is somebody’s home.

How involved are you in your community? When was the last time you donated a piece of clothing or canned food? If you saw someone struggling with a class project or some of the class material, would you help them? How many times have you been in need of help and a good samaritan extended their hand?

Haven’t you ever wanted to do more, to give back, to help?

Urban Involvement is a Seattle Pacific University club dedicated to community outreach and assistance. The organization offers students the chance to dive into, connect with and give back to their Seattle community.

The club partners with local programs and facilities such as the Bridge Care Center, World Relief and the Empowering Youth and Families Outreach. Students can join any one of six weekly events as tutors, servers, or friendly counsels.

The Bridge Care Center, located in the Ballard area, is a place for anyone who is experiencing homelessness or economic hardship to drop in and receive legal help, pick up donations, or simply congregate in the community room. Urban Involvement members under the BCC branch assist by managing donations, welcoming people and offering their hospitality.

The Empowering Youth and Families Outreach, or EYFO, provides academic enrichment through after-school tutoring sessions for students of all ages in South Seattle.

“It’s mainly about getting our SPU students connected with students from an urban community and making sure they’re graduating,” said senior site leader Megan Hill.

Site leaders for Urban Involvement act as liaisons between the SPU volunteer community and the Seattle community at large. Their main responsibilities are to organize and coordinate volunteer groups, facilitate relationships between volunteers and community members, and of course, do all they can to help those they interact with.

Urban Involvement volunteers are also offered the chance to work with newly immigrated and refugee families through partnerships with World Relief and the Neighborhood House Youth Tutoring and Resource Center.

Similar to EYFO, volunteers under World Relief, known as “cultural companions,” offer their services as tutors, and also as cultural guides, friendly contacts and ESL instructors. Volunteers with the Neighborhood House assist and participate in writing projects and building academic skills.

Urban Involvement’s most popular event may be their weekly community dinners held Sunday through Thursday at one of six community sites in the Seattle area.

“We serve an average of 100 people every night,” said senior site leader Jordan Mielbrecht.

Mielbrecht views his activity in the club as a way of “Creating pipelines of proximity,” quoting award-winning author Dominique DuBois Gilliourd.

“Every student that gets involved with Urban Involvement gets a chance to broaden their perspective in terms of who they consider their neighbor and who they consider a member of their community,” said Mielbrecht.

Another popular program is the organization’s immersive Urban Plunge experience. This experience is designed for students to learn and understand the struggles of Seattle’s homeless population and the resources that are available to them by exploring Seattle from their perspective.

“Urban Plunge has a huge impact,” said Hill. “Because it’s students being able to experience homelessness for a week. They get to go see the different resources offered to them, [such as] food banks, where they can get clothes, where they can get special assistance.”

Participants are humbled as they establish communal ties and are given a fresh outlook on privilege, empathy and responsibility. The Urban Plunge will occur this coming spring quarter.

Volunteers with Urban Involvement have helped countless members of the community—struggling students, the unhoused community, recent refugees and many more—through their efforts under every one of these programs. They set an example for other SPU students and show what it really means to love a neighbor.

For more information, contact Urban Involvement through Instagram (@urban_involvement) or SPU Engage.