Hands extending to ‘Reach Out’

By Evan Duncan

More than 225 students participated in Reaching Out, a project offering community opportunities  sponsored by the Student Government Association. The March 7 event had its highest participation rate ever.

Students gathered early in the morning to do work projects around the Belton and Temple areas.  Groups led by SGA chaplains went to local organizations, including Helping Hands, the Belton Christian Youth Center, the Ronald McDonald House and Central Texas Christian School to complete work projects that included activities like painting and cleaning.

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The goal this semester was for students to have more opportunities to be purposeful with their actions to those they serve. While some students went to various organizations,  others served at five individual homes.

These projects included cleaning the windows of an elderly woman’s home, helping an elderly man with yard work and doing small jobs for lower income residents.

“On the evaluations last semester, students wanted to make the experience more intimate,”   junior Tommy Wilson said.

As the student director of spiritual life, Wilson worked closely with chaplains to plan and implement updated agendas to meet students’ service desires.

“They  used to work  in (people’s) homes five years ago,” he  said.  “(Dr.  George   Loutherback) put the bug in my ear, and it has grown since then.”

Collaboration is essential, according to Dr. George Harrison, UMHB’s director of cultural affairs.

Harrison has been the coordinator for five years. The program was established in 1999 by university chaplain, Dr. George Loutherback.

Many faculty and staff members take part in the service projects. Some departments are encouraged to participate at least once a year.

“The collaboration goes well,” Harrison said. “We are here because of the students. It is not the students’ job to interact with us, but our job to interact with them.”

The community also participates in the event. Middle schooler Jacob Fitzwater, son of McLane Hall Resident Director Wendi Fitzwater, took part as well. To fulfill his community service duties for National Junior Honor Society, he spent the day working with older Crusaders.

Junior Tyler Jones is part of the SGA team of chaplains who worked to plan the event.

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He and his peers spent time talking with people, finding contacts for projects and advertising the event to the student body.

“It is all about giving back to the community because (it) has given us so much,” Jones said. “We have a chance to serve instead of being served.”

Wilson stressed the importance of the chaplains’ dedication. “They have done a phenomenal job,” he said. “They are growing more and more and taking ownership in this.”

As the ministry evolves, many are looking forward to the future of the outreach project.

“I would love to see UMHB adopt Reaching Out in a more aggressive step,” Wilson said. “I don’t think we are doing a bad job, but I think we could do better. My hope is that students who take part will make a connection and … serve outside of events.”

Author: The Bells Staff

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