Wayland Students, employees join forces for day of community service

PLAINVIEW – Giving up a relaxing Saturday is a pretty big deal for most people, but for nearly 300 from Wayland Baptist University, the sacrifice was worth it.

Students, faculty and staff turned out for the university’s first Degree of Difference Day on Saturday, each contributing at least five hours of work at service projects throughout the Plainview community, blessed by beautiful weather. Themed “Willing Hands, Servant Hearts,” the service day touched a wide variety of residents and agencies.

Teams did construction work on the current Habitat for Humanity house; painted and made minor repairs for the College Hill Day Care Center, Wee Care Child Center, Whiteaker Youth Center, Plainview Christian Academy and Compassionate Care Pregnancy Center; and did office work and organization projects at the Hale County Crisis Center and Vista Care Hospice. Waylandites also picked up trash and weeds at the Plainview Cemetery and marked the graves of Civil War veterans; visited and entertained in three nursing home facilities; created pottery bowls for the Empty Bowls project for hunger relief; cheered on Special Olympics athletes; led a college day on campus for city Girl Scouts, including a basketball camp led by the Flying Queens; and built shelves and organized an office for the Hale County Historical Society.

Nearly 30 individuals worked the UIL Area A 3A Marching Band Contest at Plainview’s Bulldog stadium, an event that lasted into the evening. A small team spent their morning making sandwich sack lunches for the working crews and delivering them to each work site, and members of Pi Sigma Sigma math and science fraternity tutored junior high and high school students in the afternoon.

“We were so amazed at both the incredible turnout – nearly 100 percent of those who signed up showed up – and the incredible spirit of those working,” said Teresa Young, co-organizer of the event. “I think our students and employees alike had a terrific time working, getting to know Wayland folks they didn’t know and learning more about the service agencies in our city. We know we were able to make a difference and give to our community.”

Students expressed excitement in being able to share some sweat to make an impact in Plainview, even if it meant doing a job they were not likely to take on normally.

“Working with mentally handicapped people is way out of my comfort zone,” said Melissa Knight, a freshman from Prosper. “I was a little apprehensive at first, but once I got there, I just did what I could do to help and it became more comfortable.”

Other students found encouragement from the day as they worked alongside students that were unfamiliar and saw the scope of projects the day entailed.

“Sometimes serving in my home church or here at Wayland I get discouraged thinking I’m not doing a lot or being effective,” said Tamara Haney, a senior from Shallowater. “But today God reminded me that I’m not alone. His work is always going on, and it encouraged me to continue to work and serve.”

By joining as one unit, students learned valuable lessons about the impact that service can make even in tasks that seem minuscule. Joanne Jacob, a freshman from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had an encounter with a lonely resident at Care Inn that drove this lesson home.

“She was just extremely grateful that we went to see her. It’s amazing how much it means to someone when you spend a few hours visiting with them,” she said. “It touches your heart to see them so happy by your small sacrifice of a little time.”

Christi Shields, a freshman from Smyer, had a similar reflection.

“It helped me realize that the littlest of things mean so much to those receiving,” she said. “It means so much more when you do something for others for no money than when you do it to just get paid.”

Staff members working alongside WBU students learned not only more about the population they serve in the workplace but more about the community. The students and their attitudes made an impression in particular on Mike Melcher, director of corporate development.

“This made me feel even better about the quality of students we have,” he said. “They were all eager to help and didn’t gripe and moan. Many times I was asked what else they could do. I’m proud of our kids!”

A residual goal of the service day, according to Young and Hope English, co-organizer, was that students would get “bit by the service bug” and want to continue serving. In that respect, the successes were many.

“One student told me he’d be willing to go back (to College Hill Day Care) and do whatever was needed anytime. That’s what this was all about,” English said. “You hear about service a lot, but when you get in there and do it, you really get a feel for it. Serving others has brought me such joy, and we said that if we turned one kid on to service it was worth it.”

Young said another group of students spent part of their day brainstorming how their group, the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, could continue to serve the Hale County Crisis Center, calling their assignment a perfect fit.

“We wanted them to know what needs existed in Plainview and how much of a blessing they could receive through serving, let alone how much it blesses those organizations,” Young said. “I think we left the Plainview community a little better than we found it today, and that’s what God calls us all to do.”

One particular student seemed to sum up the day best with her comments.

“It is not what you do that matters but the reason you do it and what your heart is willing to give to that service,” said Rachel Stanfield, a freshman from Plainview. “I thought this day was really good. I’m glad I got out of bed for this.”

The Degree of Difference Day will continue with a final activity on Monday, Oct. 30, when students from the Division of Fine Arts hit the streets of Plainview to trick or treat for Faith In Sharing House, a Plainview food pantry for the needy. The collection of nonperishable foods will last from 5-9 p.m.