“This is the happiest that I’ve seen him since his wife passed away.”
This is what we heard from Brandis Henderson, activities assistant at Showalter Villa, as our group of 15 trailed out of George’s room. We had come with cookies for the residents as part of our mod service activity. George, a Villa resident, hadn’t wanted a cookie, though. He wanted to hear us sing “Joyful Joyful.” He smiled ear to ear while we sang.
Service experiences like the one I experienced are common at Hesston, especially since Community Involvement Week was added to the First Year Experience program in 2014. The September 7-14 event involved 144 FYE students participating in 18 different service projects.
Russ Gaeddert, Service Learning Coordinator, says a week of service harmonizes with the theme of Hesston’s FYE class: Be the Change: Caring That Matters.
“Service is an important part of FYE, …because we need to know that the smallest acts of caring can make a huge difference [in] the lives of others.”
Community Involvement Week also reflects Hesston College’s mission of “integrating thought, life and faith for service to others in the church and the world.”
While Gaeddert contacted the sponsors, and arranged the dates, FYE scholar Jessica Fahrentholdannounced events, sorted paperwork, and even led a service project.
“Honestly, one thing I hope that students take away from service is simply the knowledge that there are always needs out in a community,” she said. “And while you can’t meet every need and fix every problem, you can make a difference, and that’s an important thing to do.”
Freshman Anna Miller said she learned that living in a nice community takes some work.
“We can’t expect to live in a nice community if we (don’t) throw out trash.”
There were other perks in Community Service Week, Miller said.
“A memorable moment was when I picked up a piece of trash but it turned out to be a dollar.”
Gaeddert mentioned a few more intangible benefits he hopes students gained from Community Service Week.
“There are many other good reasons to serve: getting to know other volunteers, a feeling of connectedness to the organization you are working with and to your community, and an increased awareness of social issues to name a few.”