Co-sponsored by Wittenberg’s Office of Community Service Office and Office of the Pastor, the weekend – one of dozens of activities and class projects affiliated with the project – was made possible by a $50,000 grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
The weekend included service in and around Springfield’s historic South Fountain Avenue neighborhood, including the Gammon House, an Underground Railroad site. Service projects were organized by Ben Babian, a leader of First Baptist Church and a member of the South Fountain Neighborhood Association, as a way to expose students to poverty issues in the city as well as social justice and the advocacy efforts of faith-based organizations.
Events during the weekend included a tour of Springfield with Mayor Warren Copeland, Wittenberg professor of religion and director of urban studies, visits with community agencies, service in Springfield, and talks with local community leaders and exploration of vocation possibilities.
On Friday, Nov. 3, students assisted with an Interfaith Hospitality Network dinner donated by Ci-Ci’s Pizza at Grace United Methodist Church. The next day, students participated in a panel discussion on social justice issues with local leaders. Panel members included Copeland, Wittenberg Pastor Rachel Tune, Pastor Ken Whitt from First Baptist Church, President of the Clark County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity Dawn Stutz, Ramona Henry and Makiva Harper from Justice Action and Mercy and Babian.
“The panel discussion engendered a sense of social responsibility, and the students considered ways that they can serve others through their vocations,” said Molly Ritchie, Americorps VISTA serving in Wittenberg’s Office of Community Service.
Participating students spent both Friday and Saturday nights at First Baptist Church.
“I am so appreciative that First Baptist hosted our Service Immersion Weekend,” Ritchie said. “The students were deeply affected by the experience and especially the relationships that were formed by the neighborhood, the church and everyone who participated over the course of the weekend.”
The students involved in the weekend gained a great deal from the experience.
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“I honestly believe that it was a transformative experience for them,” Ritche added. “It made them think about the poverty issues in Springfield and their own communities and what they can do to help.”Wittenberg’s relationship with the South Fountain Neighborhood Association will continue as the Office of Community Service plans Celebrate Service, Wittenberg’s annual community service day. Organizers plan to collaborate with the association’s plan to plant trees along side streets.
Written By: Kimie James ’07 and Molly Ritchie
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