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 Jacque Smith, Director of Public Relations

Aug. 25, 2004
November 2004 Outlook story

Union expands annual service event with ministry fair;
Clatonia one of 50 sites served by Union's Project Impact 2004

LINCOLN—For the 23rd year Union College students, faculty and staff started the academic year with Project Impact, a day of volunteer community service to the Lincoln community. This year, Union’s emphasis reached beyond the Thursday, Aug. 26 event and culminated at “Union Station,” a ministry fair on Saturday, Aug. 28 from noon to 3 p.m. at the corner of 49th and Prescott streets. The community was invited to participate in this collaborative event planned by Union College students and the College View Seventh-day Adventist church. The goal of the ministry fair was to link participants with church and campus ministry opportunities and connect community volunteers to opportunities in the city.
        “When we planned Project Impact, we wondered why it had to end there,” said Justin Okimi, Project Impact and Union Station student coordinator. “What if we could perpetuate the spirit of volunteering throughout the year?  So a group of students got together and took on the challenge of making Union Station happen. The college and church leaders listened to our ideas and encouraged us to invite the community as we kick off the year with an emphasis on ministry.”
        Participating organizations included Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Lincoln Literacy Council, YWCA, the People’s City Mission and the Good Neighbor Center. 
        “There was a lot of interest generated from the ministry fair,” said Angie Hardt, leader of marriage encounter weekends and Spiritual Journeys Assistant Director at Union College. “A lot of couples signed up for a weekend, it was a very positive experience for our ministry.”

Project Impact sends group to Clatonia
In addition to the regular social service and community sites in Lincoln, this year on Project Impact day (Aug. 26) a group of 40 volunteers from Union assisted Volunteer Partners with the ongoing tornado damage cleanup on four farms in Clatonia, Neb. 
        Rich Carlson, Union’s campus chaplain, volunteered as a police chaplain during the initial days following the tornado devastation in Hallam on May 22. “The destruction was immense but the community support was equally phenomenal,” Carlson said. “We wanted the residents of Clatonia to know the students of Union College still care.”
        Other volunteer projects included several Lincoln public schools, a Habitat for Humanity site, the American Cancer Society, the Hispanic Community Center, Lincoln Parks and Recreation, Rape/Spouse Abuse Crisis Center and several Cedars Youth homes.
        “We look forward to Project Impact every year,” said Bill Michener, director of Lighthouse, an after school program for at-risk students.  “Union students are consistent, they never complain and they are always hard workers.”
        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 says he enjoys being a part of Project Impact because of its affect on the community. “When I hear the community agencies talking about how great the volunteers were and how much they accomplished, I know Union students have made a difference. Even more, I’ve seen how volunteering makes a lasting impact on our students.”
        This year an estimated record high 700 students, staff and faculty worked at 51 different sites, including various public schools, social service agencies and child care facilities. During the past 23 years, approximately 12,700 students and staff have participated, putting in more than 103,500 hours of volunteer service at various Lincoln social service sites.  At the end of the day 140 pizzas were ordered to feed the returning 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 for more information.)
        Other sponsors included Wal-Mart, 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-three 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 23 years of impacting the community, the campus participation rate averages 80 percent.