“Service is one of Union’s core values,” said Megan Fleming, a Campus Ministries group leader and senior business administration major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States. “Organizations I’ve talked to know us. They say, ‘Oh, you came and helped us organize this thing one time. We know Union!’ ”
Every year, Union College takes a day off classes to spend on service projects in the nearby Lincoln community. After having to cancel last year due to the pandemic, students anticipated even more than usual the 2021 Project Impact, the 40th service day Union College has held.
Project Impact began in 1981 as BRUSH (Beautifying Residences Using Student Help). Union students spent the day painting and doing yard work at individual homes. Over the past four decades, the program has expanded to include serving those who serve Lincoln all year — nearly 40 local non-profit organizations. Along with doing yard work and painting, students sort donations, serve food, clean facilities, and read to children.
Jadyn Anderson, a 2021 Project Impact coordinator and junior biomedical science major, described her first experience with Project Impact. “My freshman year, I went to sort through foods that were donated to a shelter. We sorted through potatoes, cans, bread, and all sorts of stuff. I was new and didn't know anyone here, so Project Impact helped me form friendships that I wouldn't have otherwise. It was a nice, relaxing day.”
She added that she’s not the only Union student with this opinion. “Everyone I’ve ever talked to always says how fun Project Impact is. It’s just a great time.”
Project Impact is an enjoyable experience for Union students and a chance to develop relationships with the Lincoln community. “It’s nice to get to know these organizations and to see their why: what drives them, what their passions are,” Fleming explained. “Connecting with them is a big part of it for me now.”
“It’s a great way for the students to get involved with the community and to spread awareness about Union and our mission,” Anderson added. “Our values are to be a school of service and to have a mission-serving heart. They set us apart and teach our students to include acts of service in our regular lives. In previous years people have said that Union students are faster and more efficient than the organizations expected. We run out of things to do!”
The service doesn’t end after Project Impact. Union students are encouraged to stay involved in the community by serving local organizations all year long. Many students choose to return to the organizations they volunteered with during Project Impact.