Over 700 Messiah students, faculty, and staff volunteered at Special Olympics during Service Day. This year, due to construction at the College’s Starry Field complex, the Special Olympics—usually held on campus—were held at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Messiah volunteers take the 'service plunge'
“The urban farm is an oasis of life in the city,” says Benjamin Davies ’08, who planted vegetable seeds in Harrisburg as part of Messiah College’s annual Service Day in April. Davies was one of more than 1,400 Messiah students, educators, and employees volunteering at 56 off-campus project sites.
Davies and 14 others worked at this particular Harrisburg site: constructing a shed, weeding, transplanting, watering, excavating, and seeding for the Joshua Farm Project. This program is supported by Joshua Group, a local, faith-based non-profit organization that provides hope and support through educational and vocational opportunities to at-risk youth in the Allison Hill area of Harrisburg. Kirsten Reinford, the project’s farm manager, was encouraged by the “interest of students in food and justice issues.”
A team of 15 students and faculty from the biblical and religious studies department, including (left to right) Kaytlynn Hughes ’09, Lauren Steele ’06, and Zachary Spidel ’08, dig into their project on Service Day during the first growing season of the Joshua Farm Project, a working farm and education resource center located in the Allison Hill district of Harrisburg.
Davies, who developed an interest in global sustainability through course work he did with visiting professor Joe Ebenezer, intends to take advantage of future opportunities to serve in the agricultural field. “My generation has lost touch, to a certain extent, with the cycles of nature,” he says.
Service Day, sponsored by the Agapé Center for Service and Learning, educates volunteers about the many ongoing opportunities to become involved in the community. “The hope is that the experience of serving for one day, known as a ‘service plunge,’ will spark the desire in students to make service a part of their lives,” says Rebecca Owen, Messiah’s local community service director. To make this experience possible, classes are canceled and most campus offices are closed for the day.
Other service teams pitched in at various regional sites including King’s Kids Camp, Habitat for Humanity, Messiah Village Retirement Community, and Seidle Hospital. At Special Olympics, the largest service project of the day, over 700 volunteers buddied-up with an athlete, officiated at events, or assisted in numerous other ways with the competitive games. Traditionally held at Messiah, Special Olympics events were hosted this year by Cumberland Valley High School due to renovations currently under way at Starry Athletic Field.