JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 10, 2005 – When a group of men from Union University arrived at Trinity Christian Academy to lay fresh mulch on the school’s flowerbeds, they soon realized that the mulch was not delivered.
“The driver was sick apparently, but our men were all prepared to do anything to help better the school’s appearance,” said Justin Cook, a senior at Union University. “We told the administration that we would do anything and everything they needed, and we brought 16 of our men here for service with or without mulch.”
Trinity officials quickly presented Cook and his team members, all from the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, with an alternative – cleaning the flower bed, among other small projects. The Union University students quickly got to work.
This was just one of 55 projects that Union University organized as part of the third annual Day of Remembrance. Similar stories were also unfolding at Cornerstone Church, Forest Cove Nursing Home and Jackson Central-Merry High School, just to name a few of the service projects around Jackson.
Day of Remembrance at Union is a tradition organized to give back to the Jackson community for their support after a tornado swept across the university’s campus Nov. 10, 2002, causing more than $2 million in damage. Each year Union cancels most classes for Day of Remembrance so students, faculty and staff can show their appreciation to the community.
“Looking back, we can all say this is something that we hope we never have to experience again,” said Union University president David Dockery. “But we do not want to lose sight of the things that we learned during those days, and we want to be able to pass those stories and reflections on to each generation of students. We take one day a year to tell the story and to serve those who served us as a way of saying thank you.”
The day began with a special dedication service at 8:30 a.m. where about 750 students, staff and faculty met before beginning work. The chapel service closed with prayer as the Union teams fanned out across Jackson.
Cook’s team arrived at 10 a.m. to begin work. Team members unloaded their shovels, spades and other equipment and waited for Tommy Rice, the maintenance manager, to give them directions.
As the team began pulling weeds, Rice checked in periodically to see their progress and give new assignments. Sanchez Colon, a Union freshman and varsity soccer player, was equipped with a gas trimmer to clean out a ditch that was overgrown with high grass and brush.
“It took me a while to make progress, but I knew I could handle it,” Colon said. “It was fun, but when I was handed a large spool of heavy duty string, I knew I was going to be down there for a while.”
Union freshman Kyle Devore said he was thankful for the perfect weather and for the opportunity to help the school.
“I think we filled five or six wheelbarrows full of weeds,” Devore said. “I was content with pulling weeds instead of mulching anyway.”
Kimberly Thornbury, Union’s dean of students, said that while Day of Remembrance is only one day Union dedicates to service, the university’s mission to serve and desire to give back to the community is a year-long aspiration.
“I think the day of service is a good example of just one way we try and fulfill Union’s mission statement of providing Christ-centered higher education that promotes excellence and character development in service to church and society,” Thornbury said. “We are thankful to the community agencies and schools who allow us the privilege of serving with them and allowing us to learn more about what they do on a daily basis.”
By William Boyd (’08)