Olivet Makes a Kingdom Impact in Kankakee County

Students & faculty volunteered in the community during ONU Serve Day 2019.

On October 19, more than 100 students, faculty and staff volunteered around Kankakee County as part of ONU Serve Day 2019. Working on seven distinct projects, each group provided a mix of physical labor, technical expertise, resources and genuine support and care to lend a hand in their backyard.

The following are snapshots of the service projects.

Serve Day site: Northern Illinois Food Bank | Peoria, ILOlivet_ONU_serve_day_students_volunteer_staff_2019_web4.jpg

Leader: Andie VerHoeven, senior forensic chemisty major with a minor in criminal justice
What was the highlight of your experience?
“After a brief training, we worked in the food bank warehouse for approximately 2.5 hours. After our shift was over, we were informed that we recovered 2960 pounds of food, which correlates to 4700 meals. Hearing how many pounds of food we recovered and how many meals that provides, in such a short time period was so impactful.”
Why is serving in the community valuable?
“We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to partner with God in bringing His Kingdom, here in Kankakee, as it is in Heaven. ONU Serve Day gets students off campus and into the community, opening our eyes to the brokenness around us. It also reveals how we can partner with God to restore some of that brokenness. The practical work we did showed us simple ways to help our community.”

Serve Day site: Sleep in Heavenly Peace | Bourbonnais, IL

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Leaders: Erinn Proehl ’13/’19 MBA, director of alumni relations and Kelsey (McNulty) Proehl ’13/’19 MSN, registered nurse at Riverside Hospital and tutor for Olivet’s ABSN program 
What was the highlight of your experience?
Kelsey said, “Our team of 15 students built ten bunk beds in three hours. Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a national program that uses community volunteers to build bunk beds and connects them with local children who need a bed.”
Why is this project important in the community?
“The local leader of Sleep in Heavenly Peace was passionate about this project — and more importantly, about the kids we were helping. The host team from Sleep in Heavenly Peace modeled servant leadership so well for our students. It was great to see the commitment of other adults to give their time to this project and help people in their local community. I think it opens students’ eyes to different opportunities to serve others now and in their future lives as adults. This type of project also shows the community that Olivet students care about the people in the place where the live and study for four years.”
Student perspective: Junior Hannah While said, “I realized that many people who live just a few miles away from me, don't have the necessities that I often take for granted every day.”

Serve Day site: Perry Farm | Bourbonnais, IL

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Leaders: Dr. Dan Sharda and Dr. Ryan Himes, professors in the Department of Biological Sciences at Olivet
Why was this project important in the community?
ONU Serve Day takes us out of our own little bubbles and helps us to reflect on working with others –  doing things we might not otherwise do. I think we made an impact, especially as many people saw us picking up trash along main street and at Perry Farm. This hopefully will have a motivating effect for others.
Student perspective: Junior Lily Jarzabkowski said, “This was a great time to reflect on and appreciate the blessings we have of living in this beautiful community. As Christians, we are called to care for the creation that has been gifted to us during our time on Earth. By being careful and thoughtful in the small, everyday things we do, we are living out that message and calling.” 

Serve Day site: Miscellaneous manual labor projects | Pembroke, IL
Leader: Dr. Barry Lee, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Social Work at Olivet
What was the highlight of the experience?
“Seeing each student jump in and stay focused on the task the entire time! Wood splitting is essential for the residents who cannot afford propane to heat their dwellings. Each year the service we can provide will make a difference, no doubt about it.”
Student perspective: Senior Cassie Appleton said, “I love Serve Day because it allows members of the ONU community to connect with the broader community. It was special to connect with the residents of Pembroke, and an honor to serve them so tangibly. One of my favorite things about Olivet is the plethora of service opportunities, both on and off campus. As a college student, it's easy to be selfish with time and resources. Taking advantage of opportunities to grow through service has allowed me to expand my worldview and build bridges with those outside my normal circles.”

Serve Day site: Langham Island | Kankakee River State Park
Leader: Dr. Derek Rosenberger, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Olivet
What was the impact of your project?
“We cut and burned exotic honeysuckle bushes that were taking over the island and shading out the native plants. We worked with Trevor Edmondson who leads the Friends of Langham Island group and ten other community volunteers. It was wonderful to see the students working alongside much older community volunteers to restore the island to health. After completing our work for the day, we prayed and thanked God for the opportunity to restore His garden. A community member echoed our Amen and thanked us for making "her" park better. It was great for her to see that our students care about the environment and are willing to invest time in caring for God's good creation.”

Serve Day site: Salvation Army | Bourbonnais, IL

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Leader: Susan Morrill ’16, coordinator for student ministries
Why is ONU Serve Day important for Olivet students? “In just two hours, our group sorted through approximately 900 pounds of clothing. What we accomplished in a short span of time would have taken two Salvation Army days to complete. The Salvation Army store receives an average 4 tons of goods a day. With 5 people on staff, any extra help the can get is of great benefit! ONU Serve Day is an opportunity for both faculty and students alike to uphold our University's dedication to ‘Lives of Service.’ For those seeking to live in the way of Jesus – the One who came not to be served, but to serve – such participation is a tangible means to exercise our faith.” – Susan Morrill
Student Perspective: Junior Juliette Kitenda said, “I realized that little things like donating clothes make a really big difference in someone else's life. I enjoyed getting a new perspective of the community off campus.”

Serve Day site: Illinois State Trooper family | St. Anne, IL

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Leaders: Dr. Shelly Stroud ’90 and Dr. Craig Bishop ’08 M.O.L./’13 Ed.D, professors in the Department of Criminal Justice and Social Work at Olivet
“Twenty-two of our students assisted the brother of an Illinois State Trooper. The man is paraplegic and needed assistance around his home including painting his wheel chair ramp, a garage and a shed, and building porch steps for his family.” – Dr. Stroud
How was the Serve Day project impactful? “It was such an awesome experience to have a large number of students not only give of their time, but to do so in such joyful manner. When we were done, the father of the man we helped expressed how grateful he was for our help and walked away wiping tears from his eyes. It is such a blessing to know that our students are willing to love others through their acts of service and learn to invest in the lives others with compassion and integrity, and in order to do this we encourage them to exemplify our motto of ‘Live, learn, lead.’”
Student perspective: Senior Timothy Hodges said, “I loved painting and getting to know other students whom I hadn't talked to before. What impacted me most was the humility of the man we served and how grateful he was for the work we did. I remember him telling me, ‘Thank you! Thank you so much! You guys are such a blessing.’ I was so humbled to hear these words. Serve Day was one of the best highlights of my semester and of my time here at Olivet.”

For more information about student life at Olivet, contact the Office of Admissions at admission@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photos submitted & used with permission.
Published 11/5/19