Of the more than 100 student organizations at Concordia, few can claim to remember being wildly successful in their first few months as an official club on campus. But that is exactly what Cobbers in Action, a club with 65 active members dedicated to “reminding the world of intentional kindness over spontaneous evil,” has done in just two months.
The club, which spreads its mission by doing random acts of kindness on campus and throughout the community, was created by freshman Alex O’Connell, a recent graduate of West Fargo High School.
“It’s a club that came about through watching and observing and seeing sadness,” O’Connell said. “This club has recognized, and is recognizing to this day, the pain that humanity has to go through … So I guess if you think about all the sadness in the world, inherently, it created the most joy that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Cobbers in Action caught the attention of Concordia students, parents, and faculty alike after their first unofficial, and maybe a bit unorthodox, event outside of the Knutson Campus Center the day before first semester midterms this year. O’Connell and a few of the future members of Cobbers in Action were sitting on the Adirondack chairs near the belltower observing passersby and playing music on O’Connell’s boombox when he had an idea.
“I started to shout at people, ‘Hey! Come over here!’ And pretty soon, we had written our first blessing on the Adirondack chair,” O’Connell said. “We invited groups of people, families who were coming for Preview Days, to write with a Sharpie one blessing from their day on the chair. We had answers, anything from ‘I’m glad my daughter is going to college’ to ‘I’m glad I went to college’ … and all of a sudden, in the span of three and a half hours, literally, 250 signatures.”
Just over a month after becoming a formally recognized campus organization, Cobbers for Change held their first official event on Jan. 14 at Babb’s Coffee House in Fargo. They received $400 from an anonymous donor, and used that money to give free coffee to anyone who showed up at Babb’s during a one-hour span. But there was a twist: they gave people the option to donate the money they would have used to pay for their coffee to Unseen, a Fargo nonprofit working to fight human trafficking around the world.
For only being a one-hour event, Cobbers in Action was very successful at Babb’s.
“From one to two o’clock, we raised about $756. Now that becomes substantially more impressive when you think that was doubled by Unseen when they called us a little while later,” O’Connell said.
According to Than Baardson, co-founder and CEO of Unseen, Unseen currently has 28 rescue partners worldwide working with over 120,000 kids and families in 18 countries on six continents. The money raised by Cobbers in Action will go towards supporting those rescuers and will be matched by part of Unseen’s $80,000 match on Giving Hearts Day, on Feb. 8.
Baardson is very grateful for what Cobbers in Action is already doing and impressed by the club as it branches out into the community.
“I think they’re on their way to doing some amazing things,” Baardson said. “We work with many to see the level of commitment and actual drive [Cobbers in Action] has … talk is cheap but the group at Concordia … that’s pretty special.”
Freshman Dave Fehr is involved with Cobbers in Action as their extra studies liaison, helping anyone in the club who wants to hold an event connect it to their major and apply it to their future.
“We’re all about spreading positivity and joy throughout the community, so the more people we get out, the more impact we’re able to have,” Fehr said. “At our first event we had a lot of people come out and they were just having a blast, so to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and the joy that was in the room was probably my favorite thing so far.”
Alex Skaare is another freshman involved in the group.
“My favorite thing is probably the unity of the club, that we have all these random people everywhere and I have no idea who most of these people are until they came to the meeting,” Skaare said. “That’s kind of the club thing that we’ve been having. A lot of unity, a lot of coming together, people that don’t know each other. Come meet everyone. It’s fun.”
Cobbers in Action now meets Sunday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. in ISC 301 after outgrowing their original meeting space in Hvidsten 156. They are always looking for more recruits for their club, with a goal of reaching 105 members by the end of this semester and 300 by the end of next year.
“By the end of my college career, with [Fehr and Skaare] next to me and the [Cobbers in Action] behind my back, we’re not going to be the Cobbers in Action. We’re going to be the college in action,” O’Connell said.
This goal is especially important with their next event coming up. They are looking for people to join them in volunteering at Atonement Lutheran Church in Fargo for Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit working worldwide to pack meals to send to those suffering from hunger.
Cobbers in Action is booking through First Lutheran Church in Fargo to volunteer from 10:30 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 10 to pack 100,000 meals. Atonement has requested 270 volunteers, and Cobbers in Action is looking to fill 60 of those spots. An online sign-up can be found on First Lutheran Church’s events web page under Feed My Starving Children.
“There are things in this world that we can’t stop, that we can’t fight against. [But] there are things that we can do to lessen the blow. And so when we see those things that break your heart … I think it’s so important to remind people that it’s okay to smile, it’s okay to be happy, and it’s okay to live in this world alongside one another and know that we’re all doing what we can,” O’Connell said.