Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Eight Westminster College students and two staff members spent their winter break in the south serving others through organizations like Habitat for Humanity, a local shelter and a church.
The students traveled to Bluffton, S.C., during the first week of January where they stayed at the Fellowship Center of the Lowcountry Presbyterian Church. The center was opened up to the students by the church's pastor the Rev. Bob McCreight - who in the past served as interim pastor at the New Wilmington Presbyterian Church located across the street from Westminster's campus.
The students participated in both of Lowcountry's Sunday morning worship services and offered a "Minute for Mission." On Monday the group cleaned, landscaped and organized the storage area for the Family Promise Center, an interfaith hospitality organization that provides help for families in housing or life transitions.
During the rest of the week the group traveled to Savannah, Ga., about 25 miles from Bluffton, where they served with Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity. The first couple of days the students worked on two houses by insulating the main floors to prepare for the drywall installation, painting the foundations, and framing the sheds on the property. The last two days they assisted the staff at ReStore, a store for that sells surplus building supplies and household goods to raise money for Habitat.
"We were processing donations, prepping items for the sales floor and moving items as needed," said Carey Anne LaSor, assistant to the College chaplain. "We were very busy, especially trying to process an entire commercial kitchen's worth of stainless equipment - which was in desperate need of a good scrubbing. So we scrubbed, and scrubbed, and probably scrubbed 15 or more grocery carts worth of pans. As soon as we got them on the shelves, they were sold!"
The scrubbing and all the effort by the students did not go unnoticed by the staff at ReStore.
"We were so pleased with all the help the students and their supervisor did at the store," said Charles Austin, store manager. "They really made a difference in the community with their service. Please tell them that on their next visit I will not have any restaurant pots and pans to clean."
Community service among Westminster College students and staff is nothing out of the ordinary. Volunteerism and civic engagement is integral to the College's mission to apply knowledge to contemporary issues, while demonstrating moral and ethical commitments to neighbor and society, and to demonstrate commitment to lifelong learning and the acquisition of skills for careers and for responsible service as world citizens.
Westminster uses such educational methods as service-learning in which the service is integrated into the course curriculum and requires that the students reflect on their service activity. Service-Learning incorporates the mission of the College in the classroom allowing students to grasp "real-life" experiences in their field of study, while meeting community needs through service. Due to this and many other activities that allow students to give back to the community Westminster has earned President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognition every year since the program was launched in 2006.
"For me, the privilege of working on a college campus is no more clear than when I am able to take students off-campus to do something "real." Working with their hands gives them confidence and also a glimpse into the hard realities of many people's lives," LaSor said. "Working with and for those whose status in life will never be great, opens their eyes to the value of person, the reality of education and economics, and how hard it is to come from "nothing" and succeed. So, they anticipate and are rewarded, in my experience, with a change of perspective on these trips."
"I learned and took away so much from this trip. I had not been on a mission trip for about two years and I had forgotten how much you can take away from an experience such as this trip," said sophomore sociology major Maria McTighe. "I learned so much about the south and about Habitat in general because I had never been on a Habitat trip before. I felt as if my spirituality was growing each day we would serve and I loved having the opportunity to reflect on all of the blessings I have received in my life from God and how thankful I am because of this opportunity."
The group was led by LaSor and Katie Gray, a 2011 Westminster graduate now serving as Pennsylvania Campus Compact Volunteer in Service to America in Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.
Contact Westminster's Chapel Office at (724) 946-7117 for additional information.