Joe Mertz Center hosts Urban Plunge in Chicago

Huntington, Ind.—From April 18-20, Huntington University’s Joe Mertz Center for Volunteer Service took a team of eight students and two adults to Chicago for the 11th annual Urban Plunge.

On Friday, the groups spent the evening engaged in an “immersion night” with Emmaus Ministries. The ministry’s purpose is to reach out through relationship building and provide hope in Christ for men involved in sexual exploitation. The group had a one-hour briefing with an Emmaus staff member before they were divided into pairs and sent to the streets where Emmaus does outreach. The purpose is for each pair to visit bars, clubs and other popular places where male prostitutes spend time and begin to develop relationships with these men. The event lasts between three and four hours and ends with a debriefing.

Holly Harris serves coffee for a brunch hosted by Housing Opportunities for the Maintenance of the Elderly.
Junior not-for-profit business major Sy Yoshigami, an international student from Japan, wanted to gain a better understanding of the lifestyle of male prostitutes.

“Through this activity, I got to see the reality of the people who are living on the streets, and I got to see that there are people who are sincerely trying to help them,” said Yoshigami. “To be honest, I was surprised with the fact that many people are eager to help with the immersion night activity. I also realized that all those volunteers have strong compassion and love toward the people on the streets and help them based on the Christian faith. This experience gave me the opportunity to actually see their faith embodied by their actions.

Helen Raudales serves food for a brunch hosted by Housing Opportunities for the Maintenance of the Elderly.
On Saturday, the group worked with the ministry Housing Opportunities for the Maintenance of the Elderly, or HOME. There, they served approximately 12 individuals at the Elizabeth Salmon House brunch. They brought the food items, fixed breakfast, then served and cleaned up. They also cleaned the grounds of the facility before making breakfast.

For Huntington University senior Helen Raudales, her favorite part of the trip was getting to know the people in the group. “Having lunch together, chatting and laughing, and working as a team was definitely fun!”

But the trip was more than just fun for the students.

“Working with elderly people made me realize how important my life is now and how short it is, so I should make the most of it now,” said Raudales, a senior recreation management major from Honduras.

The group stayed at Living Water Community Church and was given the opportunity to do some service projects. The students worked on cleaning the church as well as setting up for the church service, in addition to helping recently moved families unpack. The group attended a worship service at the church on Sunday, where the setting was incredibly diverse, with many different cultures and languages represented.

Junior Holly Harris enjoyed the opportunity to meet the people of the streets as well. For her, understanding the humanity of the homeless was very eye opening. But Harris also enjoyed the environment at Living Water Community Church.

“It was so neat to see how many different nationalities were represented in this one church” commented Harris, a junior elementary and special education major from Monticello, Ind. “I am not sure of the actual stats as to how many were truly represented, but there were at least two other languages that were used to translate some of the announcements.”

The purpose of the trip is for students to experience different types of volunteer service.

“Urban Plunge offers students to experience ‘uncomfortable-ness’ that comes from being in an unfamiliar situation,” said Tabitha Truax, JMC student planner of the event and a sophomore journalism major from Spencer, Ind. “I would hope that through this event students were able to confront that uncomfortable-ness and redefine their attitudes towards different types of people.”

Founded in 1992, the Joe Mertz Center for Volunteer Service has become an integral part of Huntington University campus life. During the 2006-2007 academic year, students, faculty and staff volunteered for more than 12,397.5 hours, serving more than 50 families, organizations and programs. 
Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  


Heather Barkley
Director of Communications
Joanne Green
Sports Information Director