Agents of Change
Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) has recently begun serving the community in a new way. On Oct. 13, 240 Olivet students participated in the very first ONU Serve Day. Students served the community in 16 different locations throughout Kankakee County.
Since first joining Olivet’s staff last year, Ashley Rosenberger, Director of Missions, has felt called to impact the local community in a way that Olivet has not already. She is not alone in this feeling. Rosenberger stated she and Susan Morrill, Coordinator of Student Ministries, both felt convicted to ask students to help meet local needs. ONU Serve Day was created to do just that.
“I felt that it was great that we are sending students to Tihland, Indianapolis and Chicago… I just felt convicted that if we are asking them to serve there, we should also be serving in our local community. There is a need here as well,” said Rosenberger.
Outreach projects included a trash clean up, fellowship opportunities in a nursing home, participation in Kankakee County Renewed Opportunity (KCRO) Tag Days, volunteering at a food bank, and more. These projects were designed and organized to help address the growing need in the community.
Over the summer, Rosenberger met with community leaders seeking partnerships for the ONU Serve Day event. She noted that they all responded positively, encouraged and excited that the Olivet community wanted to get involved.
“It’s not a new thing,” said Rosenberger. “Olivet has been involved in Kankakee but getting to strengthen and communicate that was exciting.”
“Olivetians, learned from and served various persons, places and partner[s] [in] our local community. Likewise, the local community met and learned from Olivetians…Bradley, Bourbonnais and Kankakee already know Olivet is here. Do they know we care?” Morrill stated.
Morrill lead a group of 14 students at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. The team was able to serve members of the community and meet practical needs. The food bank requires volunteers to attend an informational training session.
“I learned the significance of [the team’s] work, but also the power of one person volunteering their time,” Morrill said. During the two hours the team was serving, students packaged over 8,000 pounds of food that, “immediately feeds back into our community.”
“Regardless if you were serving or the one being served, the first ONU Serve Day was life-giving to all parties,” said Morrill.
The trash cleanup took place at the Kankakee State Park where Austen Marshall, Olivet senior and Associated Student Council (ASC) Executive Officer of Spiritual Life, led the serve day group. Students brought new life to the park, ridding it of trash. Marshall shares that they had great success and were able to eliminate a lot of garbage that was littered throughout the park.
A second group engaged residents of a local nursing home in games of bingo. Students were able to talk with individuals as they played games and spend time in fellowship. Sharing his experience at the nursing home, Marshall said, “It was neat to see relationships and partnerships being made.” The positive impact extended to all 16 locations.
“[Serve Day] impacted me in a huge way. There is definitely a need in the community, and what good is only one day of service? What else can we be doing on a more regular basis in order to serve and show the love of Christ?” Marshall said. “It was a day in which we ‘burst the Olivet bubble’ and engaged more with our community.” He hopes to continue to serve and create future outreach opportunities in the Kankakee area.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm about us creating more opportunities for students to get involved in Kankakee…There are a lot of students that want to serve, and that’s encouraging,” Rosenberger said.
For the students that are not able to participate in extended mission trips, “You don’t necessarily have to go on a three-week trip, but you can spend two hours serving in our local community,” Rosenberger said. She believes service is about doing “what you can, when you can, where you can.”
Rosenberger aims to continue ONU Serve Days as well as other opportunities to get involved in the Kankakee community: “There was a lot of excitement. Now, what we desire to see is that excitement turn into participation. My hope is that we can show students that no matter what their disciplines, passions or hobbies, they can be involved in their local communities. They can be agents of change.”
If students are interested in getting involved, they are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on upcoming events and service opportunities.Service Locations:
Bourbonnais Park District
Kankakee State park
Tag day for Kankakee County Renewed Opportunity
Garden of Prayer Youth Center
Joliet Northern Food Bank
Pembrook Wood Splitting
Asbury Community Outreach Center
Pregnancy Resource Center