Two days before they attended a college class for the first time, a dozen St. Ambrose students peeled apples.
Others shucked corn, yanked weeds, painted railings, speared roadside trash, sawed up dilapidated picnic tables, mowed grass or packed back-to-school backpacks.
Members of one of the largest first-year classes in St. Ambrose history made a big splash in the Quad Cities on Aug. 20, immersing themselves in the community and the Ambrosian commitment to service through Urban Plunge 2012.
"I think it's a real good idea," said Luke Mayfield of Quincy, Ill. "We get started right into what we should be doing - building up the community and getting to know new friends better."
Not all of the new students who were handed a paring knife at the Café on Vine meal site for the needy in Davenport found the task of peeling apples, well, appealing.
"Some of them wondered why they were doing that," conceded Rev. Charles Adam, SAU's chaplain and director of campus ministry. "There were students who wanted to go back to sleep. But even asking the question was a good thing to open the conversation of what service means at St. Ambrose."
Kelsey Penrod, from Athens, Ill., had a pretty good sense of that even before she and her New Student Seminar group boarded a bus to Rock Island, Ill., to help with yard work at the St. Mary's Monastery.
She is enrolled in service learning as part of the honors program and also will be expect to volunteer for community service while living within the academic themed housing community at the new North Hall.
"It definitely shows we are not just concerned about the university," she said. "We are more concerned about the community. (Urban Plunge) gets us involved."
Hopefully for the duration of their St. Ambrose career and far beyond.
Fr. Adam said several members of the NSS group at Café on Vine want to return soon to finish preparing apples that will be used there to make a winter's worth of apple sauce.
Café Coordinator Sister Ruthe Westmoreland was pleased with the group's work ethic.
"It's a hard day," she said. "They're trying to meet new people. Some do a lot of talking. This group is staying on task."
Westmoreland said the St. Ambrose student body tradioonally has been a key source of the café's sorely needed force of volunteers.
"We are a beneficiary of St. Ambrose feeling the way they do about service," she said. "Today and all through the year. The whole concept of St. Ambrose students doing service starts on the first day and hopefully continues. It is a great help to us and a great help to the community."
This year marked the 14th day of service for first-year students at St. Ambrose, but was the fourth since campus ministry joined up with New Student Seminar to create virtually full participation from first-year classes.