BLUFFTON STUDENTS SERVE IN CHICAGO
Thirty Bluffton University students spent their recent spring break in Chicago, but they weren’t in the Windy City to see its tourist attractions.
From March 4-9, the students—from the campus group SERVE—divided into small groups and worked in inner-city neighborhoods at soup kitchens, churches, nursing homes, outreach centers and a children’s after-school program, among other locations.
One stop was the Greater Chicago Food Depository, where a team worked on care packages for community members. "Over the span of two and a half hours, we made 1,280 care packages for the elderly, with a total weight of around 13,500 pounds," Tobin Eicher, a first-year Bluffton student, noted.
Accompanied by Jacklyn Wells, Bluffton’s residence life director, and Elizabeth Vaccaro, assistant director of Marbeck Center, the students stayed at the First Church of the Brethren on the city’s west side, near their work sites. "The people at the church were absolutely incredible hosts and made us feel extremely welcome," said sophomore Abbey Graber, a SERVE leader.
In addition to the service aspects of the trip, the students listened to two speakers and participated in devotionals. "We learned of other missions that are in Chicago and some of the things that are being done to lessen the violence in the city," said Peter Crone, a senior and SERVE leader from Shreve, Ohio.
The group watched the documentary "The Interrupters," which Eicher, from Berne, Ind., said showed him a side of Chicago he hadn’t seen before. He said he felt "particularly affected" by the film, which focuses on anti-gang violence efforts aimed at bringing peace to the city’s streets.
"We really do not realize how good we have it until we hear someone else’s story," added Graber, from Archbold, Ohio.
To raise money for the trip, the team held a bike-a-thon in Marbeck Center using a stationary bike, with Bluffton faculty, staff and students donating to the cause. "Members of the Chicago team kept our stationary bike moving for the majority of three straight days," Graber pointed out. Also taking the bike for a ride were guest "celebrities," including university President Dr. James Harder and mascot J. Denny Beaver. Area churches and companies donated money to team members as well.
Although the students went to Chicago to help make a change, the city changed them, too, by bringing them closer together. "I loved watching the diversity of our Bluffton group come together as a whole with one sole purpose: serving the Lord," Graber said. "Our time serving during the day and our time of group fellowship in the evenings brought us together like a family."
Eicher added that he particularly appreciated making connections with those he was serving and getting to know them. "One of my favorite things about voluntary service is all the wonderful people it brings you in contact with," he said.
Ariel Shuey, public relations office, 3/22/12