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Five years of gratitude: Union thanks Jackson community by serving

Homeowner Mary Lambert watches as Union students Summer Schwent and Lydia Bond rake and pick up around Lambert's house. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
Homeowner Mary Lambert watches as Union students Summer Schwent and Lydia Bond rake and pick up around Lambert's house. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.Nov. 8, 2007 – Mary Lambert’s husband Judson died in May as a result of a car accident, and she has been battling bronchitis for four months.

With all of that going on, Lambert, a member of Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., hasn’t been able to maintain her yard the way she usually does.

“I have a vine that will take the world, if you’re not careful,” Lambert joked.

So she was thrilled when four Union University students showed up at her house Nov. 7 to do the work for her – raking leaves, pulling weeds and fending off that vine intent on world conquest.

The group of Union students was just one of 70 such groups that fanned out over the Jackson area as part of the university’s fifth annual “Campus and Community: A Day of Remembrance and Service.” More than 700 students, faculty and staff participated.

“We had a fantastic response from students as well as the community,” said Julie Dockery, Union’s assistant director of student leadership development, who organized the event. “I have already received e-mails from several organizations expressing their gratitude for the work that Union students have done today. I have heard nothing but a positive report on the work ethic and positive attitude of the Union students in the community.”

Campus and Community day is an opportunity for Union to show its appreciation to the community for its assistance after a tornado hit the campus Nov. 10, 2002, causing more than $2 million in damage.

Following the storm, the Jackson community stepped in and brought food and supplies to the campus, while local residents gave of their time and talents. Construction workers and insurance adjusters moved in to help and the campus was able to function again within a 48-hour period.

Union cancels most classes on this day each year to allow the university community to participate in projects at such places as local schools, nursing homes and social organizations – and at homes of people like Lambert.

“I think it’s absolutely wonderful. I love it. I like the girls. I’m having fun,” Lambert said. “What it means to me is everything, because my house is a mess, and I hate that it’s a mess.”

Julie Mitchell, a senior from Scottsdale, Ariz., was one of the four women who worked at Lambert’s house.

“When we first came, she just wanted us to come inside and talk with her,” Mitchell said.

The team members spent about 45 minutes talking to Lambert before getting to work.

“She’s great,” Mitchell said. “She’s making us brownies and cake right now.”

Mitchell said she participates in Campus and Community day because it’s important for Union students to get off campus and recognize that there’s a surrounding community of hurting people who can use a little help.

“Maybe this is an opportunity for students to see a need that can be met year-round,” she said.

Another team of students did gardening work at North Parkway Elementary Magnet School. They pulled weeds that had overgrown the flower bed and planted new flowers.

“We need extra help with the beautification of our campus,” said Principal Versie Hamlett. “So we had several students on campus today who volunteered their precious time to make our environment conducive for learning. When someone spends their time, that’s the most precious thing that you can give to someone. I really appreciate the dedication the Union students have shown us.”

Lydia Marshall, a junior from Louisville, Ky., was one of the students who worked at the school. Marshall said she wasn’t at Union five years ago when the tornado hit, but she had heard about how the Jackson community invested in the school during that time. Even now, as a student, she said that investment has blessed her.

“I wanted to give back to the community,” Marshall said. “It’s just a good opportunity to be able to do community service, because community service is fun.”

The day began with a brief chapel service on campus, with a message from Gregory A. Thornbury, dean of the School of Christian Studies.

“In and of itself, it is a wonderful thing that we might be able to give a helping hand to various different civic organizations, schools and other places that could use a few helping hands and bodies during the day,” Thornbury said. “But in some way, I would hope that what we would do today and think about is the way in which we are in some small way beginning to imitate God himself.”

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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