August 25, 2003         



For 22 years Union College has cancelled classes just a week after they have begun.  The reason?  To send more than 600 students and staff into Lincoln to help approximately 50 social service agencies. On Thursday, Aug. 28, students and employees will give up a chance to sleep in so they can participate in Project Impact, the college’s annual volunteer community service day. This year, in addition to the regular tasks of painting, cleaning, and yard work, Union students will serve several Lincoln public schools and help Habitat for Humanity build a home.

            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, says his favorite part of the day is the 8:15 a.m. kick-off when more than 600 students and staff assemble for a group picture. “It’s really cool when everyone is gathered to take the picture and I think, ‘No one is forced to be here,’” Okimi said. “Classes are cancelled and they could all sleep in, but they’re here to share with our community.”

Last year an estimated 650 students, staff and faculty worked at 52 different sites, including various public schools and child care agencies. During the past 21 years, more than 11,300 students and staff have participated, putting in 40,000 hours of volunteer service at various Lincoln social service sites.

Paul Canny, principal of Prescott Elementary School, has been impressed with the work of Project Impact volunteers. “This is an extraordinary program. [The volunteers] come out and don’t ask for anything. They just ask, ‘What can I do?’ and they always do a good job,” Canny said. This is the fifth year Union College students and staff have volunteered at Prescott Elementary; this year they will clean out a courtyard pond and assist teachers with various projects.

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 for more information.)

            Other sponsors include Westlake Ace Hardware, AdventSource, Alltel, 7 UP, Papa John’s Pizza, Union College Student Services 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-two 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 22 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.