- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - One of Goshen College’s core values came to life Wednesday as dozens of faculty and first-year students spent the day giving back to the community.

“Servant leadership” - one of the institution’s five core beliefs - is the theme of this school year, which made the college’s 17th annual Service Day particularly relevant.

For nearly two decades, Goshen College students have taken a break from their studies one day each fall to learn about the nonprofits in Elkhart County and volunteer for them.

“The concept of service is connected to a practical way of living our faith and demonstrating love for others,” Dean of Students Launa Leftwich said. “Goshen College is proud to belong to the city of Goshen and Elkhart County. At Goshen, to have the opportunity to study also means having the opportunity to serve.”

That’s part of the reason 20-year-old Emma Hernandez chose to attend Goshen College.

“When you go to a big university, you feel like just another student,” she said. “But at Goshen College, you’re not just another student. They mold you into a better person. Goshen College is hard on academics, but it’s also hard on giving back.”

Hernandez spent the day painting a house on Roys Avenue in Elkhart through LaCasa Inc., a nonprofit that makes sure housing is safe, attractive and affordable.

The owner of the home is elderly and could not paint the exterior of her home, so the Goshen College students took care of the window frames, garage door and even some vents on the roof.

“It’s really cool to be part of a school that lets you be part of the community, to take a day off from the books to do some good,” Hernandez said. “It’s nice to know your world a little better.”

Hundreds of students were spread out through Elkhart County, serving various nonprofit agencies. Some canoed down the Elkhart River and loaded their boats with trash that had collected along the shores. Others helped set up the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds for the annual Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale, which takes place this weekend.

Amy Brock, food production manager for Soup of Success, oversaw a group that performed various tasks, such as preparing sheets of bubble wrap and cutting pieces of twine for the upcoming holiday season. She said the group from Goshen College is one of the biggest volunteer groups she sees every year.

“It’s too much to measure,” she said when asked what impact the students have on the job and life skills training program from which she graduated. She listed the many prep tasks students accomplish during Service Day, helping the organization operate during its busiest time of the year.

She said the students get a lot out of the experience too.

“I always tell them, ‘You are here today to learn about us for a reason,’” she said. “Somewhere down the line, they’re going to run into someone who needs a service and they can pay this information forward. It’s exciting and it makes me feel good that they’re engaged. It’s our next generation.”

Several students said they learned through Service Day how easy it is to volunteer, and that they will continue to give back to their community because Goshen College opened the door for them to do so.

“It’s a nice surprise to see how quickly so much can get done when there are so many people pitching in,” said 18-year-old Lukas Thompson.

Thompson chose to attend Goshen College because of its music program and facilities, but he said the college’s values also influenced his decision.

“They’ve always been welcome and positive, and that drew me here,” he said. “Goshen College is the full package for me because it is such a community-based school.”


Source: The Elkhart Truth, https://bit.ly/1gS9ZUk


Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

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