By Maren Miller, student writer
Every year Union takes one day off from classes to send students into the Lincoln community and volunteer. Project Impact has been a part of Union’s campus life since the 1980s. This year, because of Project Impact, Union received the Step Forward Award in the volunteer group category from ServeNebraska.
ServeNebraska is the state’s volunteer service commission that coordinates and supports community involvement. Every year, Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts selects Step Forward Award winners among volunteer groups or individuals who are nominated for different categories such as adult volunteer, youth volunteer leadership, volunteer group, corporate community volunteer, national service, veteran volunteer, disaster volunteer and lifetime achievement.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by the state for all that the Union College family does in the Lincoln community,” said Pastor Rich Carlson, Union’s vice president for spiritual life. “Project Impact is part of the spirit of Union.”
In 1981, Union launched Project BRUSH (Beautifying Residences Using Student Help) planning to paint 100 homes for elderly and disabled persons before the college’s centennial in 1991. They exceeded the goal, painting 113 homes. At that point, the project day shifted to serving the organizations that serve Lincoln all year long. Now more than 800 students and employees take a day off from school every September to serve at more than 60 sites around Lincoln. To date, more than 22,000 volunteers have given 135,000 hours to Lincoln as a part of the project.
The ServeNebraska ceremony was attended by Elissa Lombard, student coordinator for Project Impact 2017, who accepted the award on behalf of Union. Lombard, a junior from Maine, arranged for the service sites, recruited student leaders for each site, and designed the t-shirts for the event.
“The hardest part this year was keeping up with all the sites and communicating effectively with each one,” said Lombard. But the leadership experience taught Lombard to be adaptable when everything didn’t go as planned.
The ceremony was held at Quarry Oaks Country Club in Ashland, Neb., and Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley presented the awards.
“When Nebraskans ‘Step Forward’ and work together in the best interest of others, they are strengthening the communities and families that make our state unique,” Foley said in his address to finalists. “The volunteers and organizations we honor today make Nebraska stronger through their generosity and goodwill.”
Project Impact introduces Union students to the rewards of community service, and many choose to continue volunteering throughout their time at Union. But Carlson has even bigger plans for the future.“I hope we can expand it to being club or group driven so that we can do more than provide a day of service, but actually integrate it into the ongoing campus life all year long.”