By Chelsea Hackney, Student Reporter
More than 100 students met around the GATA Fountain on Saturday morning to worship and pray together before leaving for one of 13 service projects for the annual event ACU for Abilene.
Dr. Stephen Moore, associate professor of English, spoke to encourage the teams.
“I was worried because it was foggy, but then Dr. Moore started talking, and the sun came out,” said Maegan Terrell, sophomore social work major from Garland and co-chair of ACU for Abilene. “I almost cried.”
After a quick breakfast provided by the Service Action Leadership Team, students began working on everything from sorting food to washing windows across the Abilene community with businesses such as the West Texas Food Bank, the Abilene Downtown Association and Wesley Court Methodist Retirement Community.
Although only 103 students registered, SALT estimated the number of total participants at closer to 170 or 180.
Some people showed up with their friends or forgot to register and came anyway, said Courtney Patterson, senior business management and marketing major from Orlando, Fla., and co-chair of ACU for Abilene.
“It was a much better turnout than I’d expected, especially for lunch,” Terrell said.
Two weeks before final exams is often a difficult time to organize events like Service Saturdays, she said.
“Since there are only a few Saturdays left, I’d love to just be hanging out with friends, being lazy,” said Jeremy Tatum, senior social work major from Garland.
In spite of busy schedules, students stepped up to the challenge.
“It’s not always the most fun thing to do all the time, but when you’re serving with other people, it’s a really encouraging experience,” said Kimberly Ledzius, junior elementary education major from Round Rock. “It’s a good way to spend your Saturday.”
Ledzius spent her Saturday with the ACU leadership camp staff at the Abilene Zoo, evidenced by the temporary monkey tattoo on the back of her hand. The camp staff assisted zoo employees with Earth Day festivities, taking tickets and playing games like “pin the tail on the flamingo.” Not a live one, Ledzius added.
Some project sites were more labor-intensive than others, but all led students out into the community, Patterson said.
“You can see literally what’s happening right across the street,” Tatum said. “It’s something we can do here.”
Many of the organizations involved with ACU for Abilene rely heavily on volunteers. Tatum volunteers with one such organization; Connecting Caring Communities is “dedicated to restoring the foundation of safe and caring communities,” according to http://wecareabilene.org.
“We need students to share who they are and what they do,” Tatum said. “The goal is to restore relationships, and that’s what it comes down to. We’re trying to get back where we came from, to that front-porch mentality.”
In keeping with the day’s United theme, students continued to fellowship with each other after completing the volunteer projects by enjoying a free cookout and concert organized by SALT and Wishing Well. Groups of students in matching T-shirts scattered across the Mall area outside of Moody Coliseum, eating and sharing their experiences.
Cars full of musicians and equipment lined the sidewalk between the Brown Library and the Morris Center, and bands, including Swing the Lead and Fair Forms, performed on a stage provided by the Campus Activities Board. Students wandered between the booths set up by campus organizations, representing international and local social issues.
“We can serve in the community, but this lets people take the next step with social justice,” Terrell said.