Students from the Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management put down their laptops and picked up paint rollers and gardening tools as part of the school’s annual Community Service Giveback Day. 

The event was held Wednesday at a Seward Street apartment building owned and operated by the Reba Place Development Corp. as affordable housing.

Martha Burns. Credit: Desiree Shannon

The Giveback Day project at the building was primarily organized by Martha Burns, interim director of Reba, and Patrick Hughes, a business development officer for Byline Bank who worked with Kellogg to make the project happen.

Also present were members of the Evanston Lighthouse Rotary, which has been a long-time supporter of Reba, along with other volunteers associated with Reba. Some of them acted as team leaders in helping Kellogg students complete the work.

Many volunteers were beginning their first year at Kellogg and have only been on campus for a few weeks.

Volunteers gather at the job site. Credit: Desiree Shannon

Student Daniel Hal said that though he had “limited experience” with painting and gardening, the project was a worthwhile way to fill an empty schedule for the day and escape the “bubble” that sometimes surrounds students at a high-stature school like Kellogg.

Katie Shively, another first-year student, said the project gave her an opportunity to see more of the community, and “contribute in a positive way.” 

Carole Cahill, an administrator in the dean’s office at Kellogg, said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity for our Kellogg students to come out and help the community…I’m very proud.”

Carole Cahill of Kellogg with event organizer Patrick Hughes. Credit: Desiree Shannon

She added that though the annual Giveback Day was mostly student-driven, faculty and staff were also encouraged to participate in projects. She said 500 people from the Kellogg community had signed up to volunteer for projects chosen for this year’s event.

David Janzen, Reba’s founder who still serves the organization in an advisory capacity, told volunteers that their efforts “give some encouragement to people (who live) in the building.”

He also said that he hoped the young volunteers participating in the effort would “become more curious about what it is that causes people to end up in the bottom of the economic and social heap.”

Reba Place Development Corp. has its origins in the Reba Place Fellowship and Reba Place Church, part of Evanston’s Mennonite community. 

The organization has been operating since 1995 independently of the church groups.

It is currently undergoing transition with some changes in leadership, as well as efforts to upgrade its properties.

It has recently undertaken various renovation projects on its own to the Seward Street apartments, including seeking city funding to replace the vintage building’s roof.

Desiree Shannon relocated to Evanston in 2022 from Columbus, Ohio. She has a journalism degree from Otterbein College of Ohio. During her undergraduate studies, she completed an internship with the Washington...

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