HUNTINGTON, IN -- Huntington College freshman will serve the needs of community residents during orientation again this year. In addition to the usual hustle-bustle of class registration, book buying, and adjustment to campus life, new and transfer students will participate in HC's Volunteer Plunge. The unique program is sponsored by the college's Joe Mertz Center for Volunteer Service. From 8:45 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, September 5, about 200 new students will fan out in teams of 12 to 14 to minister to the needs of their neighbors.
One group will spruce up a courtyard at Pathfinders. Students will work alongside mentally handicapped adults weeding, mulching, planting and painting picnic tables. Others will scrub walls in the facility's cafeteria.
Another group will participate in a "Blitz Build" sponsored by Habitat for Humanity. Students will help lay a foundation for the organization's seventh home in Huntington. The event coincides with Habitat's international "Building on Faith Week," and anticipates the September 17 dedication of a home built by Huntington College students last spring.
Other HC freshmen will work at the thrift store operated by Love, Inc. Still others will improve hiking trails and pick up litter at the Huntington and Salamonie Reservoirs. Another team will hang birdhouses and trim hiking trails at the Horace Mann Environmental Lab.
All the student volunteer teams will assemble at 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday, September 5, in front of the Habecker Dining Commons. Teams will receive instruction from group leaders and then be transported to work sites.
"The Volunteer Plunge is a great opportunity for new students to see the needs in the Huntington community," said Jodi Traynor, a senior from Naperville, Illinois, and student director of HC’s Joe Mertz Center for Volunteer Service. "Not only will they be completing various projects, but they will be mirrors of Christ to the people they meet."
Now in its fourth year, the Joe Mertz Center annually mobilizes HC students for volunteer action. Last year, HC students contributed more than 7,000 hours of community service. Ninety-three agencies, churches, organizations and individuals were assisted, and several new student-run programs were launched. Sixty-seven percent of Huntington College students participated.
Traynor and other student leaders are intent on bettering that record. This year they plan to mobilize over 75 percent of the student body for volunteer service.
"By exposing incoming freshmen to service in the community, we provide them an opportunity to get acquainted with our center and all the unique opportunities we have to serve others," Traynor continued.
"It is amazing how a group of students can impact the community with a few hours of work," said Dean of Students Friesen. "This year's Volunteer Plunge will be even bigger and better, with more students and more projects than last year. Habitat for Humanity, for example, has coordinated its Blitz Build to coincide with our orientation event."
"The objective of the Plunge is twofold," explained Friesen. "First, we want to provide an opportunity for new students to get involved in the community. Second, we want to develop teamwork skills within the groups. Working together and helping others are important aspects of our life together at Huntington College."
"This is only our second year for the Plunge, but I feel confident that this will become a tradition here," Friesen continued. "It is our hope that if we get students involved in volunteerism early, it will have an impact on their involvement in community service throughout the year, throughout their college experience, and throughout life."
"Ultimately, the Volunteer Plunge gives expression to our Christian witness in the community which is what Huntington College is all about."
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