Adventist school students, staff, and faculty reach out to area residents.
On September 13, 2018, Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States, held its second annual Change Day, a day dedicated to community service. Approximately 1,400 Andrews University faculty, staff, and students worked at 70 sites across seven neighborhoods and two counties.
Andrews classes were canceled, and many offices were closed until 3:00 p.m. to give the campus community an opportunity to join in service. Participants gathered at 9:00 a.m. on the Andrews flag mall to eat breakfast and have worship before traveling to their project sites.
“It’s great to feel a part of something so big as Change Day, where we know we’re making a difference in the community and being changed ourselves,” said School of Education executive assistant to the dean Vicki Wiley. “Seeing hundreds of faculty, staff, and students all over the flag mall at Andrews all wearing the same shirts is empowering!”
Wiley added that as they headed to their places of service, they felt “like … an army of people serving God in practical ways.”
Project sites included the YMCA in Niles, the Curious Kids Museum, Habitat for Humanity, the Eau Claire District Library, Shamrock Park, and the Benton Harbor Public Library. Tatiana Correa, a second-year Master of Divinity student at Andrews University, coordinated a group of 25 volunteers, who led diversity training for second- and third-graders at the Hull International Academy in Benton Harbor, Michigan. “We talked about what diversity meant, where we came from, and the beauty of being different,” she said. “Their smiles and interesting questions made the day fun and one to remember.”
Other participants completed a variety of tasks including cleaning headstones at the Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles; shoveling out animal stalls at the Berrien County Youth fairgrounds; cleaning out the storage facility and packing donated food at God’s Abundant Food Pantry; and helping in the classrooms at Mars Elementary School. Some also washed windows, removed undergrowth, picked up trash, organized classrooms, and painted buildings.
Michael Nixon, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Andrews University, said, “I led a team at the Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Campground site for the second year in a row. One of the most rewarding parts of the experience was having Mark Lemoine [the campground owner] take our brand-new team — I was the only holdover — to the site of our project from last year so that he could show us the dramatic difference we made to that part of their grounds.”
Nixon said it was a reminder to him of the importance of the initiative. “We never know how far even one good deed will go in transforming the lives of others and the spaces that they occupy,” he said, adding that he looks forward to going back to the KOA site in 2019 to continue contributing in service projects.
About Change Day
The inspiration behind Change Day comes from Andrews University’s mission to “Seek Knowledge. Affirm Faith. Change the World.” Andrews held the first Change Day on September 14, 2017. On that day more than 1,500 participants worked at 63 sites across Berrien County on projects ranging from painting a mural in a school to cleaning beach areas and parks to offering information about career choices to hundreds of high school students. Each Change Day is a way for Andrews University to give back to the local community through service, school leaders said.
Teela Ruehle, assistant director of service and missions and Change Day coordinator, summarizes her response to Change Day. “It was an amazing experience to be able to connect with our community and provide help where it was needed, from pulling weeds to painting schools,” she said. “It was such a good reminder that serving others and volunteering is not just beneficial to one person or group, but it helps all those involved grow to be better individuals.”