Students give inspiration, hope through pillowcases

Mount Mercy University students have embarked on a mission to provide encouragement, hope and inspiration to those who need it most. Students in Mount Mercy’s J-Term course Healthy Lifestyles decorated pillowcases with inspirational quotes and positive messages that will be donated to the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids and read by women who may need a special word of encouragement.

Assistant Professor of Nursing Sharon Guthrie was inspired to have her class provide encouragement and positive messaging for others after reading an article on the powerful impact art can have on people suffering from mental illness.

Lecturer in Nursing Julie McIntosh, who co-taught the course alongside Guthrie, recognized the way the project united students and helped them embrace positive lifestyles not only for themselves, but also for others.

“Every night these women staying at the Catherine McAuley Center can fall asleep knowing somebody does care. It might be the message that sticks in their head to get them through the next day,” McIntosh said.

Colin Johnson, a senior history major from Bakersfield, Calif., found the project to be a meaningful form of community service.

“I hope the residents get as much out of the pillowcases as I did. I hope they know that people do care and ultimately they don’t look at the pillowcases as fabric with writing, but as a gift and inspiration,” Johnson said.

Healthy Lifestyles Service ProjectThe Healthy Lifestyles course, like many at Mount Mercy, regularly engages in service projects within the community.  Last year the class created inspirational calendars for the Catherine McAuley Center. This year’s project was even more personal and meaningful for both the students and recipients.

“It’s a lot more than buying food and bringing it in,” Guthrie said. “This is something the students put thought and effort into. They knew they were doing something special for someone else.”

Emily Boyer, a senior nursing major from Vinton, Iowa, previously partnered with the Catherine McAuley Center as she conducted her public health clinical rotations. For her, service projects on behalf of the organization fall in line with her academic interests while also allowing her to make a difference in someone else’s life.

“The way Mount Mercy integrates service into classroom time makes me not want to lose that part of my life when I graduate,” Boyer said. “I will be more inclined to fit service opportunities into my schedule after graduation because I see how positive it is and I enjoy giving back.”

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, the Catherine McAuley Center offers educational tutoring and transitional housing for women. For more information, visit

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