August 27, 2002

 

UNION COLLEGE CANCELS CLASSES TO IMPACT COMMUNITY

 

            LINCOLN—Over 50 Lincoln social service agencies will hum with activity this Thursday, Aug. 29, as more than 600 Union College students and staff choose to donate their day off from regular classes and work to lend a hand to Lincoln’s social service agencies. For over 20 years, Union College students and employees have given up a chance to sleep in, so they can participate in Project Impact, the college’s annual volunteer community service day. Each year, between 40 and 65 local agencies receive help from Project Impact volunteers. This year, in addition to the regular tasks of painting, cleaning and yard work, Union students have been asked to serve as sponsors for four field trips to the State Fair, Folsom Children’s Zoo and the Children’s Museum.

            Project Impact is completely student-run. Students coordinate the project, solicit sponsors, and ultimately make this day a success by volunteering their time. Justin Okimi, Project Impact student coordinator, knows what an important role volunteers play. “Fifty-one sites wouldn’t mean a thing without the more than 600 volunteers to work at them,” he said.

Last year, an estimated 650 students, staff, and faculty worked at 45 different sites, including a dozen public schools. During the past 21 years, more than 10,000 students and staff have participated, putting in close to 40,000 hours of volunteer service at more than 600 sites.

Shanna Letcher, coordinator of volunteer services for Cedars Youth Services, is grateful her organization benefits from Project Impact. “We’ve just had the best experience with Project Impact because the volunteers are always willing to help, and we can tell they really enjoy being here,” Letcher said. This year, 11 Cedars Youth Services agencies will be among the more than 50 organizations served by Project Impact volunteers.

Project Impact’s principal sponsor is the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). ADRA is an independent humanitarian agency that provides individual and community development and disaster relief and has a presence in more than 120 countries around the world. As a needs-oriented organization, ADRA concentrates its efforts in community-based development activities and disaster preparedness and response, while also cooperating with other agencies and organizations in fulfilling this goal. ADRA programs annually benefit more than 15 million people worldwide.  (See www.adra.org  for more information.)

            Other sponsors include Westlake Ace Hardware, AdventSource, Alltel, 7 UP, Papa John’s Pizza, and the Union College chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).

Union’s Project Impact is the second phase of an ongoing commitment by the college to be involved in volunteer work for the Lincoln community. Twenty-one years ago, in 1981, Union College initiated and completed Project Brush, with the goal of painting 100 homes for elderly and disabled Lincoln residents before the college’s centennial celebration in 1991. The goal was realized and exceeded with 113 homes painted by the students and staff of Union College.

            Directly following the success of Project Brush, Project Impact was launched in 1992 with the goal of continued service to the Lincoln community, but from a different angle. Community service agencies were contacted and asked if they could use help for one day in the fall. The response was overwhelmingly positive and Project Impact began. Now after 21 years of impacting the community, the campus participation rate is up to approximately 80 percent.

            Through the volunteer placement service on campus, community service is more than just a one-day event for Union students. From volunteering in hospitals and nursing homes to running programs for children in downtown Lincoln, Union’s impact continues throughout the year.