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SAU Maintenance Recognized as Community Champions

Photo courtesy of Bethany for Children & Families.

As each semester comes to a close at St. Ambrose University, a familiar scene unfolds: students heading
home leave behind an assortment of items, from clothing to furniture, in their dorms, townhouses, and

According to SAU’s longtime Physical Plant Director Jim Hannon, the school’s Residential Life
department works hard to reunite these leftovers with their owners.

But when confirmed to no longer be wanted, instead of simply discarding the abandoned items, Hannon
said SAU takes a different and more benevolent approach by repurposing them for local causes such as
Bethany for Children & Families.

SAU’s charitable community service was recognized Nov. 3 at Bethany’s annual community celebration
at the Stern Center in Rock Island. The local charity named Hannon, Terry Wilson and Kaylon Spangler
and the SAU maintenance crew as Bethany’s Community Champions of the Year. 

“It is incredibly humbling to be recognized,” said Hannon, a campus fixture since graduating from SAU in 1984. “We’re proud to represent St. Ambrose by being part of Bethany’s efforts toward bettering those
less fortunate in the community.

“Our patron Saint, St. Ambrose, often emphasized charity, compassion, and service to others. It is
Bethany that deserves the real applause for their daily good deeds.”

Founded and incorporated in 1899, Bethany is a Quad Cities-based non-profit organization providing a
wide array of services aimed at their mission “to keep children safe, to strengthen families, and to build
healthy communities.”

Hannon said Bethany’s mission aligns perfectly with SAU’s values. The school began working with the
local charity nearly two decades ago when Hannon met Bethany President/CEO Bill Steinhauser, with
two of his sons hired by Hannon one summer to work on SAU’s maintenance crew.

“I think Jim’s motivation initially was at the end of the school year,” remembered Steinhauser. “Students
or parents gave away or abandoned items — they especially didn’t want to haul home something big if
they were driving back to Ohio or someplace far away like that.

“Jim’s thought was originally that some of those items would probably last the next 15 years or so,
maybe a little longer. So, he wondered is there was anyone in town who could use them? It’s been a
fantastic situation for us.”

Hannon described SAU’s charitable efforts as a win-win scenario benefitting both the environment and
local families in need by ensuring that unwanted but usable items find new homes rather than
contributing to environmental waste.

“Our main goal is to keep anything we can out of the landfill,” Hannon said. “We also solicit and supply
good, used office furniture, living room furniture, kitchen tables and chairs, beds, mattresses and
appliances as they become available.

“This could also be items from the purchase of a house in the area as we increase our SAU footprint. If
we think Bethany is interested, they are our first contact to take a look and get ‘first dibs.'”

Steinhauser said Bethany takes as many items as it can store on site in their warehouse in Moline
because there always seems to be a need.

“If you haven’t noticed, we don’t have an invisible homeless population here,” Steinhauser said.
“There are a lot of twin beds we have recycled out into the community to help people who are coming
off the street because they’re homeless.

“We have three homeless programs, and when we get another apartment, we have to put all the
furniture in there for somebody because we do a rapid rehousing model. So, when we do that on a
regular basis, it makes the Quad Cities better.”

If, for some reason, Bethany cannot make use of an item offered by SAU, the university extends its
charitable reach to other local organizations, including Habitat Restore, Gateway Redevelopment,
Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and even Catholic grade schools in the area.

“We’re not the only ones doing stuff. Project Now has 78 apartments for people,” Steinhauser said.
“Their caseworkers contact me because now they’ve got somebody who just came off the street and
they need an item. So, they check to see if we have it and I tell them what I’ve been able to find. And
that’s how we relocate all this stuff. And when those people take over a lease, we can go out and buy
more units.”

Bethany for Children & Families is forever grateful to be first in SAU’s pecking order for the free, much-
needed help.

“We’re not dragging ourselves to work,” Steinhauser said. “We’re helping people and when we get
community members like Jim and Terry and Kaylon helping us out and Ambrose being invested in what
we do, too. It’s a good community working together to make it happen.

“The old adage is true with the returning tide lifting all ships. The whole community benefits. This
benefits all of us and makes our area better.”

Others honored at the Bethany Community celebration included, the Ruth Evelyn Katz Adoptive Family
of the Year Award winners the Ackerson and Boyd family, and the Shoemaker family who took home
The Foster Family of the Year Award.

Michael Tappa is a staff writer for The Buzz.