Seth Perkins, associate professor of health and human performance, and Spencer Way clean a playground during Project Impact in 2008.
“We always assume we know what people need, but usually we don’t have a clue,” said Emily Carlson, coordinator for Union College’s annual volunteer event, “Project Impact gives students an opportunity to see through the eyes of the community and better understand what they’re needing.”
Last year, as assistant leader for Project Impact, Carlson delivered bagels to each site of the 50 sites where Union students were volunteering. In the middle of her journey, she spotted a homeless man. Thinking he could use a bite to eat, she stopped the car, grabbed a bag of bagels and handed it to him.
She drove away feeling good about her kind deed. As she looked in her rear view mirror she watched in shock as the homeless man opened a nearby trashcan and dumped the contents of the bag. He proceeded to shove his personal belongings in the bag and walked off with a smile.
“That experience taught me to not take people’s needs at face value, but to dig deeper to discover what an individual may be looking for,” Carlson said.
Students like Carlson have been learning to ask how they can help others through Project Impact for 27 years now, and the campus family is preparing to once again lend a hand on Thursday, Aug. 27.
Occurring only 11 days after the start of classes, the tag line for Union College’s Project Impact this year is “Planting the Seed of Service.” Carlson explained, “It’s important for the school to start off the year with service in mind. Project Impact is a launching point for volunteering. It helps build connections for students interested in serving the community year round, which many choose to do.”
Project Impact is an annual event which began as Project Bush in 1981, channeling student energy to paint houses for the elderly and disabled in the Lincoln area. Project Impact now focuses on serving organizations that serve the community all year long. The day is planned, led, and executed by students. Participation is not required, yet every year 85 percent of the student body volunteer their day off to rake leaves, mow lawns, paint playgrounds, wash windows, serve soup, or build homes—whatever sweaty, grimy work needs to be done in the community.
More than 800 volunteers are expected to participate this year. An estimated 15,900 volunteers have impacted Lincoln with more than 103,000hours of voluntary labor since its inception. According to available researching, it’s the longest running collegiate service day with the highest percentage of campus participants in the nation.
The event begins under the clock tower on the front of campus at 8:15 a.m.