Huntington, Ind.—During spring break, most students enjoy lying out on the beach or staying at home relaxing. Bucking the trend, seven students from Huntington University spent their time off serving the Huntington community through several work projects.
The spring break trip was supported by The Joe Mertz Center, a campus organization that plugs students into volunteer programs around the community.
“The JMC supported the trip by planning the worksites, giving us money for food, providing transportation and advertising the mission project on campus,” said Adam Shoemaker, a junior not-for-profit business major from Sheridan, Ind.
The group of students stayed at Good Shepherd Church’s retreat facilities in downtown Huntington. They stayed there for free by performing a variety of tasks such as mopping floors, painting four rooms and scrubbing stairs.
Working at Good Shepherd Church was one of eight different places where the students helped. At the Boys and Girls Club, they pulled up old carpet and mopped. At Open Door, they delivered food to elderly shut-ins. At the Huntington YMCA, they removed old bleachers and cleaned the gym floor. At a Huntington Kid’s Club meeting, they organized and taught a Bible lesson to young children. At Kids Kampus, they painted and worked outside. At the United Way, they organized and cleaned up. At Huntington House, they cleaned the basement, and garage and at Free Health Clinic, Shy Han, a sophomore pre-med major from Indonesia, volunteered his assistance.
“I really liked working at the Boys and Girls Club where we tore the old carpet in the game room,” said Shoemaker. “I have worked there since last winter, so it was good to be able to help them out some.”
Students who volunteer their time to these organizations begin to see the needs of children in the Huntington area.
“There is a lot of need in the community because there are a lot of families stuck in a cycle of poverty. The parents drop out of school then they can’t get a good job. Then their kids grow up in poverty, making it harder for them to get a good education, and they grow up knowing nothing but poverty, so it is what they are used to,” said Shoemaker. “Unless someone comes into their life and shows them how they can do things, such as doing well in school and going on to college, they don’t really even see that as an option in their life.”
The Boys and Girls Club hosts an evening program on Monday nights called Huntington Kid’s Club. Kid’s Club is a two-hour program that is led and planned by students who involve themselves in the children’s lives through mentoring. The program is headed up by Dr. Gary Newton, pastor of St. Peter’s First Church and professor of discipling ministries, and Jen Dakin, admissions and marketing coordinator for Huntington’s Graduate School of Christian Ministries.
The group of students met with Newton and his wife Joy and Dakin and her husband Dave to learn why they believe Huntington is in such a needy state and how they have tried to fix it. Through their testimony, the students learned how they could use their abilities and desires of service to reach the people in Huntington.
“The thing that most impacted me was just the extreme need and the hope that exists in Huntington. I had the opportunity to see a lot of the need, hurt, and ‘real’ side of Huntington,” said Megan Condry, a junior educational ministries major from Celina, Ohio. “Many organizations, churches, and individuals are seeking to meet the needs of the community, and I was amazed at all the programs that were offered. There are so many relationships and connections are being formed here to help the community and the future of Huntington.”
For some, the trip encouraged continued involvement in volunteerism in the local area.
“I would definitely do the trip again. It opened my eyes to the Huntington community and helped me understand more about Huntington,” said Condry. “It made me want to be more involved and continue to build relationships with people in the community. It also reminded me of the impact I can have on this community while I am going to school here.”