The group has raised money for foster children. For veterans. For the homeless. And each time its members gather, they seize new opportunities to address pressing needs throughout their community.
That's why Joe Krug ’59 started the Brigade of the Concerned Fighting Irish, a group of Notre Dame alumni who serve the greater Dayton and Miami Valley area. Since its founding in 2010, the Brigade, which Krug leads, has grown to about 65 members and raised more than $168,000 for a variety of causes.
The group meets four times a year, inviting its members to nominate charities or situations in the community that are in need of financial aid and prayer. Members then listen to presentations from each of the nominated causes before voting on one to support for the quarter.
“We just thought there ought to be some activity in the club that supports Notre Dame’s greatest tradition, which is faith, learning, and service,” says Krug, who credits fellow alumnus Ron Zlotnik ’60 with helping to launch the group. “We wanted to form a group of alumni just in our Dayton community focused on this tradition.”
Krug asks Brigade members to commit to contributing $100 at each meeting, ensuring that the selected cause receives ample donations. Combining faith, charity, and fellowship, the group often attends Mass at St. Albert’s Parish in Kettering, Ohio, together before proceeding to a local cafeteria to hear the project proposals over lunch.
“The work of the Brigade is a great source of pride for the Notre Dame Club of Dayton,” says Beth Ling ’97, who serves as co-president of the club along with her husband, Jamie Ling ’96. “When we think about how the club is charged with being a force for good in the community, this is really the Brigade's mission in action.”
At a meeting in November 2018, the Brigade chose to help the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization that matches foster children who have been abused or neglected with safe adult advocates who stay with them throughout their time in the system.
“It’s a group of individuals who volunteer their time to help the court system as intermediaries between the court and foster families,” Krug explains. “We were able to gather more than $4,000 for the CASA group so they can educate volunteers that go out and help these kids.”
The Brigade is currently planning a project at the St. Vincent dePaul Society that recalls the group’s faith-based mission inspired by Notre Dame.
“Every hall at Notre Dame has a chapel in it,” Krug says. “We have a homeless shelter here in town through the St. Vincent dePaul Society that houses upwards of 200 women and children, and one of our Brigade members thought it might be a good idea to put a chapel in this facility. There is a couple who has decided to anonymously fund all the outfitting of a chapel, but before that St. Vincent dePaul Society has to prepare the area.” And at its last meeting in February, the Brigade donated $20,000 to pay for preparing the area in which the chapel will be located. Krug says that chapel should be finished by summer of 2019.
Over the years, the Brigade has supported a multitude of causes, including Oasis House, which helps women trying to escape human trafficking; Brigid’s Path, which provides inpatient medical care for drug-exposed newborns; Fisher House, which houses military patients and their families when they require medical care; and Shoes for the Shoeless, which gives footwear to children in need.
In addition to making financial contributions to organizations, Krug says, the Brigade assists individuals and families as members learn of their needs. And it has helped members to discover causes they can support, leading them to build relationships with others looking to make a difference.
“The result of our meetings is often that the members become aware of what they can do to go out and volunteer at these different organizations,” Krug says. “Various things have come up that ordinarily people wouldn’t know about. There’s a lot of areas of the community that aren’t well known, but we can help them out.”
Krug believes the work of the Brigade supports Notre Dame’s concern for the common good, and for making a difference.
“That’s what Our Lady’s University advocates for—helping others,” he says. “It’s part of our education at Notre Dame. Besides the accounting, engineering or whatever one might be studying, they always advocate for helping the human family that is out there in all our communities. Notre Dame makes you aware of your responsibility to help in those situations.”