JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 2, 2011– About 1,000 Union University students, faculty and staff members worked on more than 70 community service projects Nov. 1 as part of the ninth annual “Campus and Community: A Day of Remembrance and Service.”
Campus and Community day is an opportunity for Union to show its appreciation to the community for its assistance after tornadoes hit the campus Nov. 10, 2002, and Feb. 5, 2008. Following the storms the Jackson community stepped in and brought food and supplies to the campus, while local residents gave of their time and talents.
Union cancels most classes on this day each year to allow the university community to participate in projects at such places as local schools, churches, nursing homes and social and non-profit organizations. The event takes weeks of planning and communication with dozens of people locally.
“Giving back to the community is always great in itself anyway,” said Matt Arnold, a junior from Medina, Tenn. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to give back because the community gave back to us when tragedy hit us. I feel like it’s necessary and a good thing to do.”
Arnold and his team worked at Pleasant Plains Baptist Church in Jackson – raking leaves, cleaning out the basement and doing general clean-up work. Zachary Pendergrass, Union’s coordinator of career planning and development, led the team.
“As a student, I participated in (Campus and Community day) and found that it was a great opportunity for us to serve the Jackson area,” Pendergrass said. “As someone who is still a staff member at Union, I’ve found that it’s a great opportunity for students -- who might not get to know who the different churches and organizations around here are – to get to come and serve them.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to come and serve and extend the love of Christ in that way.”
At the Regional Inter-Faith Association in downtown Jackson, Union volunteers worked to help sort furniture for the organization’s thrift store, packed snack backpacks that will be given to needy children and did demolition work at the old Nando Jones building, where RIFA’s operations are moving.
“It’s a huge help,” said Amber Gaylord, outreach case manager at RIFA. “Volunteers are how we get things done at RIFA. We couldn’t function without the help of volunteers. The volunteers help all of us do our jobs better by doing the things that we can’t do. We appreciate it so much.”
The day began with a chapel service led by Gregory Thornbury, vice president for spiritual life at Union. Rachel Ware, Union’s director of discipleship and coordinator of Campus and Community day, told students about the day’s meaning and purpose.
“This day serves as a significant event in the life of Union University,” Ware said. “It is a chance for us to express our deep gratitude to the community around us for the ways they have served us and been so kind and generous to us throughout the years.”
Ware said the service projects could never be a sufficient payback, “but they do serve as a tangible opportunity for us to say ‘thank you’ to them.”