Several young adults, as part of St. Anthony’s Youth Group Mission Trip, dedicated a week of their summer to rid the community of a graffiti-ridden wall and replace it with something meaningful.
A new mural in the underpass of the railroad tracks along West Bacon Street in Hillsdale outlines some of South Broad Street’s buildings, such as the historic St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Stock’s Mill, and local storefronts on one side, and many of the college’s well-recognized buildings on the other.
Shannon Petersen ’22, one of the students who worked on the mural as part of the mission trip, said he was hoping to boost some pride in the community by painting the mural.
“For people coming into town, their drive into Hillsdale is going to be that much better,” he said.
Petersen worked with Heather Tritchka, a parishioner at St. Anthony’s and the project coordinator for the mission trip, to design the cityscape, combining aspects of the city and structures at the college.
Tritchka’s work helped the group get permission from the railroad company to paint the mural in the first place, a task she said she did not initially anticipate.
“I heard from the principal at Hillsdale High School that the paperwork was very difficult,” Tritchka said.
Working alongside Jake Hammel, Tritchka met with the Michigan Department of Transportation to discuss adding a mural to the West Bacon Street underpass.
After months of discussion and brainstorming on how to avoid nearly $6,500 of required insurance to conduct the project, Tritchka said she came up with the idea that the students working on the mural would be over 18 years of age, and that their feet would never leave the sidewalk. This allowed MDOT to remove the requirements and give Tritchka the go-ahead to begin.
With several landmark buildings of the Hillsdale community in the background of the mural, the foreground has paintings of streetlights. The mission trip participants signed their names as the rays of light streaming from the streetlights.
Because they used both primer and a paint with sealer, upkeep for the mural should be easy, Tritchka said.
Painting the mural on West Bacon Street was just one part of the St. Anthony’s Youth Group Mission Trip. Dozens of children went out into the community and helped individuals in other ways, such as helping the elderly with their yard work, house-cleaning, or building a ramp for a woman outside her home.
“This year I feel like we hit more aspects of outreach to the community,” Tritchka said.
The mural, however, was one of the most visible projects for the community, she said.
Teaching the kids about community service was a large component of the mission trip, which takes place every other year.
“It’s about showing kids that you can serve the people down the street,” Emily Blatter, a youth ministry volunteer at St. Anthony’s, said. “It’s opening their eyes to know where they’re needed in their communities.”
Blatter said that she witnessed many of the teenagers being moved with how much of an impact they had doing something as simple as helping someone clear their yard.
“The mission trip is kid-focused,” she said. “We’re educating the youth and helping them grow.”
Petersen said one of his favorite parts of the mission trip wasn’t just helping the community, but developing his faith as well.
“I liked being able to go to confession and Mass and just being able to participate in my faith with everybody,” he said.
While much of the mission trip’s community work was done by the kids, several adults in the community donated their time and resources to make sure each project was finished well.
Tritchka said that she has heard many positive things from many in the community who have since seen the mural.
“For the next year it would be great to hit all parts of community service, in the house, on the yard, and in the community,” Tritchka said. “There is something for absolutely everybody.”
Because it was the oldest kids on the mission trip who worked on the mural, Petersen said he saw it as a gift that they got to give to the younger teenagers on the mission trip.
“We got to give them something that they can have to remember the trip by, hopefully for a very long time,” he said.