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 Jacque Smith, Director of Public Relations

Outlook - November 2005

Providing for Practical Needs

Claudia Pech (in background) and Sarah Mackey assist with painting at Sacred Heart School

by Kate Simmons
        Most students at Union College devote a day of canceled classes each fall to general community outreach. Some get more specific and put knowledge they’ve gained in class to functional use. Whatever his or her skills and talents may be, each student in every field of study has a chance to help someone somewhere.

Helping in small ways with large numbers
        Nothing typifies Union’s spirit of service more accurately than Project Impact. At the beginning of each school year, Lincoln is splashed with color as students wearing matching T-shirts serve for a day. This year students spent the morning and early afternoon at 51 sites across the city.
        Jesse Proctor, this year’s student coordinator, said that about 80 percent of the school’s students, faculty and staff turns out for the event each year. In only four hours, volunteers can achieve what would take one full-time laborer a year and three months to accomplish alone.
        Project Impact grew out of Project Brush, which began in 1981 with the goal of painting 100 houses for elderly or disabled Lincoln residents. After the goal was met, Project was established in 1992 as an annual day of broader service.
        Service has become a prominent part of Union’s identity in the community. Even before this year’s Project Impact, Shanna Letcher, volunteer manager at Cedars Youth Services, said, “I look forward to this time of year because I get to meet and greet all the great Union students. They’re never negative; they’re always so cheerful. It’s like they really want to be here.”
        Project Impact not only provides practical help in the Lincoln area for one day, but also facilitates contact between students and the many service organizations in the community. Letcher mentioned that several students return to volunteer again after their introduction to the organization through Project Impact.

A call to action
        When first-time visitors attend Sabbath Experience, the college Sabbath school, they may be surprised to see SOS printed on the announcements. Rather than a cry of distress, SOS in this case is a call to action. Something on Sabbath is a program of Sabbath afternoon activities organized and participated in by students.
        Some sing to patients in hospitals and nursing homes. Some serve food at a soup kitchen. Others tell stories to children. Whatever the activity may be, the intent is to exemplify Jesus’ directive “to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:12, NIV).
        Justin Okimi, a student chaplain and former SOS leader, says this year’s student coordinators have come together more quickly than any he’s seen before. “Usually it takes a few months to get all the pieces in place,” he said. “We’re looking forward to an exciting year because of that jumpstart.”
        Also during Sabbath Experience, an offering is taken up each week. The destination of the collected money is ever changing and almost always initiated by a student on behalf of a person or organization in need. In September an offering went to disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina.
        Union College’s relief efforts don’t end on Sabbath. Campus Ministries collected donations to purchase materials for personal care kits for hurricane survivors. Inside the kits are adhesive bandages, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap, shampoo, a comb and brush, two nail files, and a razor and shaving cream.

Tender loving (foot) care
        Sore feet can ruin a good day for anyone. The nursing and physician assistant programs at Union College have found a way of meeting a simple but essential need for underprivileged people: foot care.
        About 10 times throughout the school year, nursing and physician assistant faculty and students tend to the feet of members of the community who are homeless or nearly homeless. These individuals receive a pair of socks at each clinic they attend, and a pair of shoes every six months. The socks, the shoes and the clinical service, which involves washing the client’s feet in warm, soapy water, medically examining the feet and lower legs, trimming the nails and—only for those who are interested—painting the nails, is provided free of charge.
        Earl Pate, associate director of the physician assistant program, said, “The foot clinic is a marvelous opportunity for students to gain firsthand experience in the provision of services to an underserved population.”
        Materials for foot clinics are funded through a community endowment fund and the labor is voluntary. At each clinic, an average of about 30 adults receive care. One clinic per year is held in August, exclusively for children as a back-to-school benefit. This year 78 school age children attended, though the number of kids has been as high as 90. This year the clinic is held at Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach.