JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 6, 2012 – Mobility has been a problem for Steve Perry for months. The Jackson resident has a lung disease that requires him to be on oxygen for 24 hours a day. Last year he fell off his porch while using a cane.
Perry now uses a mobilized wheelchair to get around, but without a ramp at his home for easy access, he has been dependent upon neighbors to help lower him to the ground when he needed to leave the house.
That all changed for Perry on Nov. 6, when a team of nine Union University students, in partnership with the Jackson Center for Independent Living, helped construct a ramp at Perry’s home as part of the 10th annual “Campus and Community: A Day of Remembrance and Service.” About 1,000 Union students, faculty and staff participated in the event at 72 service projects in Jackson and West Tennessee.
“It means the world to me,” Perry said. “If it wasn’t for them out there, I wouldn’t be able to get out of the house. This means a lot of freedom now to me.”
Campus and Community Day serves as a chance for the Union family to express its gratitude to the local community for the ways residents helped the university following tornadoes that damaged the Union campus in 2002 and 2008.
“My hope is that the service projects today would be a tangible way to let people know we are grateful for them,” said Keely Hart, Union’s director of discipleship. “I also hope that there are more lasting results. I would love for this day to be the start of long-lasting relationships between students and non-profits in the area. Service should not just be once a year. It should be a crucial part of our lives.”
Most classes were cancelled for the day to allow for students to participate. Many campus organizations were assigned to specific projects at schools, churches and local non-profit organizations, doing a variety of tasks such as yard work, renovation or even giving makeovers to senior citizens.
At the Perry home, Union students helped a contractor secured by JCIL to build the ramp, with about $1,000 worth of materials donated by Lowe’s and Home Depot.
“I think it’s a great way to serve our community and to give back to them, not only with how they’ve helped us in the past, but also it’s a great way to share the love of the Lord with them,” said Nick Fleming, a Union sophomore from Cleveland, Tenn., who helped with the project at Perry’s home. “I think it’s a great opportunity to bond with our community.”
Courtney Searcy, a senior from Hendersonville, Tenn., spent the day at the local Salvation Army, sorting and bagging supplies that will be distributed during the holiday season.
“It is just good to be able to come and serve on this day, whether it be with a friend, Life Group or even people that you don't know,” she said. “Regardless of what you are doing, you know you are serving your community and giving back to them.”
At St. Mary’s Manor, a senior housing facility, Union students spent the morning playing bingo with residents, while another group taught residents how to use computers.
“The things that they’re doing today give the residents a chance to interact with people other than those that they see every day,” said Dana Holmes, service coordinator at St. Mary’s Manor. “Some of them don't have families or the family support to help them with things like simply cleaning off the top of the refrigerator that they aren’t able to reach -- little things that don’t seem like a big deal to us, but really are to them.”