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
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 www.adra.org 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.