“Our theme this summer at the People’s City Mission (PCM) was ‘Dream Big.’ Working with the kids ... I was just amazed at their energy for life. I learned so much from them, including how to dream,” remembered Inonge Kasaji, a junior social work major at Union College. Kasaji’s own dream began in August, when her time volunteering at the mission was drawing to a close. To thank the kids and staff for an incredible summer, Kasaji decided to take on a project that had been waiting two years to start—painting the inside of the EDEFY building.
People’s City Mission is not only a homeless shelter dedicated to sharing God’s love, but also a Safe Place center for Lincoln, and the nation’s third-largest free health clinic according to Kyle Winchell, church outreach director for the mission. A number of the 32,000 people the mission served in 2012 included children—homeless children who needed after-school care, help with homework, and someone to care for them. Thanks to dedicated volunteers and staff alike, these children can find the acceptance they need in Club EDEFY.
Kasaji spent most of her time with EDEFY this summer, teaching the kids to live well by providing Encouragement, Discipleship, Evangelism, and Fellowship for Youth (EDEFY). At the end of the summer, Kasaji coordinated with Union College’s Campus Ministries team, to include her painting project as one of the seventy sites for Project Impact day. Thrilled at the idea, the People’s City Mission leadership gave her full control of the project.
People’s City Mission has long been a service site for Project Impact day, a day off from school when Union College students and employees serve the Lincoln Community. Begun as project BRUSH (Beautifying Residences Using Student Help) in 1981, Project Impact is the longest-running college or university community service day in the nation. Since then, nearly 20,000 volunteers have given more than 100,000 hours to the Lincoln community.
Finding volunteers for a morning of painting at Project Impact—this year themed “Saturate Lincoln”—was the easy part, but paint and supplies for 3200 square feet of walls was another matter. “We first called Lowe’s,” said Kasaji. “People’s City Mission is supported by donations from the community, and the paint would have to come the same way.” She began the search for paint one month before Project Impact, and by the time Sept. 12 rolled around, Lowe’s and Home Depot had agreed to donate the needed blue and white paint for the large walls, and Walmart provided a gift card with sufficient funds for additional paint and supplies.
Kasaji still needed more painting supplies to put her volunteers to work when, about a week before Project Impact, Michael Selivanoff, co-owner of a local painting company, volunteered to help. After looking over the site, he agreed to start painting the night before Project Impact with his crew, come help the volunteers, donate the use of his equipment and come in afterwards to touch up the paint job.
September 12, Project Impact day, dawned sunny and cool. As students gathered under the clock tower, the People’s City Mission site sign bore a bold number “20” to signal how many volunteers were needed for the site. After a group picture in white T-shirts and colorful sunglasses, the nearly 800 volunteers scattered in all directions to head for their sites.
“It’s awesome to help others who are less fortunate, and it’s better than sitting at home doing nothing,” explained Devin Alexander, a freshman exercise science major from California. This sentiment is shared by nearly every volunteer who went out into the community to do good.
“We go to a school that believes in service and being Jesus’ hands and feet to our community,” said Kelli Vigil, junior elementary education major and Project Impact co-coordinator for this year.
Upon arriving at the mission at around 9:15 a.m., the 33 students who had chosen the People’s City Mission site immediately got to work sanding the old, peeling paint that covered the lower half of the wall. Bits of orange, yellow, blue, and green littered the floor and the air grew thick with dust. Kasaji and a few others walked around, giving people jobs to do and ensuring that everyone was involved.
Soon paint cans popped opened and whole sections of the wall had their first coats completed. Selivanoff and his crew continued painting the upper half of the walls a crisp white and the room visibly brightened as the morning progressed. By 11:00 a.m., the entire inside had a coat of paint.
Senior elementary education major Elisa Wright chose the People’s City Mission site because she loves to paint. She enjoys the tradition of Project Impact and helping Union College do “our part to change the world.”
Many students appreciate the sheer magnitude of the event. “We literally take over the town,” said Brad Carlson, a sophomore biology major from Lincoln. “You can just drive down the road on Project Impact day and pick people out with their matching shirts on,” laughed Carlson as he painted carefully around a light switch.
The extra help allowed students to finish painting ahead of schedule, and they headed back to Union around 1:00 p.m. for the traditional pizza feed. After grabbing a couple of slices, students and other volunteers visited a variety of booths near the clock tower set up by several of the organizations they had just finished helping. There, students discovered new ways to volunteer all year long.
To continue the “Saturate Lincoln” theme, several booths passed out colorful chalk dust, paint and squirt guns loaded with colorful water, and a color battle soon broke out. While many students returned to their homework and jobs as the afternoon wore on, they continued to bear the signs of a job well done: paint on their arms and faces, dirt on their crisp white shirts and grass stains on their knees.
Now that the EDEFY room has now been repainted, more exciting projects can roll into motion at the People’s City Mission. A plan for new floor mats and murals to be painted on the walls are just a few things that Kasaji and other dedicated workers at the mission plan to tackle this year.
“Where do all these people come from?” Kasaji exclaimed as Project Impact day drew to a close. “So many people step out of nowhere to help out in a genuine way. It gives me hope that even bigger and greater things can be accomplished for those who can’t always help themselves. Lincoln and Union College; together they make Project Impact what it is—amazing.”