“I think people do community service for a diversity of reasons, but they find common ground in the personal joy and personal satisfaction they find in being together, working together, building bridges and making the community they live in a better place,” said Dan McQuown, Albion College chaplain.
Albion students from many walks of life proved McQuown right last Saturday, April 20, as they pooled their forces to restore McAuliffe Park in Albion during the semester’s final Interfaith Day of Service. Inspired by President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Challenge, McQuown says the chaplain’s office has been spearheading efforts to get individual students, organizations and faculty members engaged in helping under-served areas of the Albion community.
According to McQuown, over 30 students from various organizations volunteered their time to chip old paint off playground equipment while other community members and organizations raked the grounds and prepped the basketball courts. A few other Albion students served by helping David Green plant trees and mulch trails in the Nature Center.
Shanti Madhavan, Onsted sophomore and one of the event’s coordinators, said the group also wanted to paint the park equipment, but cold weather delayed those plans until later in May. Madhaven believes in continuing the project, regardless of any extra time it may demand.
“Fixing up a park can do a lot for a community,” Madhavan said. “It provides a place for kids to go and interact with each other and stay away from other not-so nurturing environments.”
In addition to simple refurbishing, McQuown said that the city of Albion procured close to $20,000 to install a new bathroom and redo the dugouts at the Tillman Baseball Field, which is part of the park.
“Maybe two more days like Saturday, and that park should be up and running for when students return in the fall,” McQuown said.
As is the tradition after every service day, students were invited to the Umbrella house for a dinner sponsored by the Chaplain’s office and a discussion concerning faith or service.
“We discuss what it felt like to work with people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs,” McQuown said. “Religion, spirituality, philosophy, non religion—any point from which you’re coming to do the service is included.”
Sophmore Joshua Eggen facilitated the discussion Saturday evening, focusing on the reasons behind service.
“We discussed why service is beyond interfaith or religion in general, as well as how doing service is a spiritual activity,” Eggan stated.
McQuown said that the dialogue really came down to an examination of duty and choice as reasons to serve.
“The conversation really caught fire,” McQuown said. “People really talked and got into why they care and why they do the things they do. There were a lot of interesting perspectives on service and community work.”
For Madhavan, the reasons to serve are plenty, but she learned and stresses that while people approach service from different perspectives and with different motivations, the benefits are usually the same.
“To me, [service is] a way to give back to the community, a way to get in touch with your faith, a great way to meet people,and it can be a good, relaxing, feel-good activity,” Madhavan said. “We’re all living together in the world as one unit, and the more goodness we can put into the world, the more goodness we will receive ourselves.”
Photo courtesy of Dan McQuown