Project Impact instills attitude of service

“Every year for Project Impact, students provide acts of kindness in the community. When they come back, they’re smiling and laughing—they’re happy they did something for others,” said Inonge Kasaji, junior social work major and outreach co-coordinator in Union College’s Campus Ministries. “Why wouldn’t you want to keep that going the whole year?”

Seniors Kelli Vigil and Steven Shafer have collaborated to organize Union College’s 33rd annual Project Impact service day—a day off from classes dedicated to community service. Using the slogan Saturate Lincoln, “we’re focusing on color and being the hands and feet of Jesus in a colorful way,” explained Vigil, an elementary education major. “We want to saturate Lincoln with the colors of God’s love and bring that into people’s day.”

Each year during Project Impact, more than 800 of Union’s students and employees spread out across Lincoln to help where it is needed most. “We’re trying to be very intentional with the sites we visit,” said Vigil. “We want to focus on nonprofit, community-oriented organizations that help people, but don’t have a lot of funding. We want to give back to those places that constantly give to others.”

Project Impact has helped more than 100 local service organizations including Mad Dads, El Centro De Las Americas, Food Bank of Lincoln, Goodwill, Lincoln Public Schools and many more. Volunteers often tackle tasks such as painting, organizing and deep cleaning—projects staff and regular volunteers often don’t have time to accomplish.

Following the morning of volunteering, Union’s Campus Ministries team will host the college’s first Project Impact Picnic and Fair. Along with the traditional complimentary pizza, the campus will be filled with games, festivities and information booths. “Our whole goal this year is to get students super involved in Lincoln,” said Kasaji. “We’re inviting the organizations we’re serving to come have a booth at the fair and explain how students can participate all year.”

Elucidating the core of each organization’s mission, the informational booths and fair are designed to encourage more long-term volunteering. “Project Impact comes early in the year so we can say ‘look at all these places in town, you can work at almost any one all year if you want,’” said Rich Carlson, vice president for Spiritual Life at Union College. “We keep stressing these opportunities more each year.”

“I know a lot of people say it, but volunteering really changes your life,” said Kasaji. “There’s no way to put it other than that it’s great and I want everyone to experience it.”

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. “I just love the fact that we go to a school that believes in service,” said Vigil. “This day is about getting out of the classroom and going into the community to help those organizations that do so much for everyone else.”

“You’re changing a life,” said Kasaji. “You may not feel like it, but sitting down for an hour with a homeless guy, painting with a kid or simply filing papers can mean the world to someone.”

The event will kickoff with breakfast and a group photo at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 12, under the clock tower on Union College’s campus at 3800 S. 48th Street.