WHEELING, W.Va. – While many students were beginning spring break, the coach and 18 members of Wheeling University’s Rugby team, spent an afternoon assisting Street MOMS clean up sections of Vineyard Hill and along Wheeling Creek, providing some much need help to the organization. 

Head Coach Michael Geibel said the team undertook the project after Rev. Richard McCouch, S.J. director of the Appalachian Institute, told the athletic department that Street MOMS was in need of assistance. 

He noted that serving the community is important to him and the team. Such work, Geibel said, gives the players the chance to live the University’s mission to be men in service to others. 

“We represent our team and University on the field through sports, but also in the community through our service. For projects like this one, where we were cleaning up an area that is a campsite for people struggling with homelessness, it allows us to recognize the blessings that we receive every day. Such work allows the team to help someone else who may be at a tough point in their life. ” Geibel explained. 

Over the past couple of years, the players have undertaken several projects in the greater Wheeling community. “They enjoy helping others whenever they can, and to give two hours out of our day to benefit the community is easy, but makes a big impact in the city.” 

Fr. McCouch worked as the liaison to connect Wheeling’s students with Street MOMS to undertake this project to clean up the sites prior to the closing of local warmer shelters this month. Fr. McCouch approached Athletic Director Carrie Hanna recently, and talked to the various teams about getting involved. Rugby was the first team to volunteer to assist. 

In February, Fr. McCouch reached out the Susan Brossman and Lynn Kettler of Street MOMS to see if Wheeling University could aid in cleaning the abandoned encampments. “Given certain sensitivities, I believe a project such as this one fits in well with the mission of the Appalachian Institute, and our goal at Wheeling University to form men and women with and for others, a long-standing aspect of the university’s mission. The project on Vineyard Hill offered an informative foray into the season of Lenten service for our students,” Fr. McCouch explained. Wheeling University, he said, provided the students and rakes, while Street MOMS supplied gloves and bags to each volunteer. 

The group spent time cleaning up debris left behind by people staying at the sites to make the areas safe for the populations to return following when the shelters close, Geibel said. 

Brossman explained that Geibel and his team members were helpful in cleaning up two sites that had been abandoned. “Coach Mike volunteered nearly the entire rugby team to help us in this endeavor. We spent two hours with the team cleaning up and bagging the abandon sites, and then carried the bags to a spot where the city could pick them up. The City of Wheeling’s homeless liaison, Melissa Adams met us on the trail to thank the young men for their work. In all, we picked up close to 90 bags of trash.”  

Wheeling University President Ginny R. Favede said, “As Wheeling’s university, it is important for our students to be involved in the betterment of our host city. This is just one example of many examples of how our students help in the community. I am proud of these young men for assisting Street MOMS and local residents to clean up the site. Part of each student’s education is to learn to live our mission – to serve others and to make a positive change in their communities. The team’s assistance shows that the University educating our students to make a difference in the lives of others.” 

Adams added, “The City is very appreciative of the help provided by Street MOMs and the Rugby Team. Having the support of other individuals, agencies and organizations is essential to the health and wellness of the community overall.” 

Members of the team that with the service project were: Josh Blankenship, Bailey Brunner, Chief Chipfumbu, Navin Couch, Jacob Deglow, Stan Giani, Mohamed Haddar, Joseph Iye, Desi James, Jr., Ayoub Jalli, Rua Karimazondo, Anthony Krzesinski, Runyararo Mukangure, Mike Muleya, Laurence Old, Jose Oltra, Rati Ramishvili and Ernest Vidal.