A blue sky and sunshine greeted more than 130 Multnomah University students as they left campus to participate in Day of Outreach on April 14.
Once every spring and fall, students volunteer at several locations in the Portland community, including nonprofits, nursing homes, schools and community centers. MU cancels classes for the day so students can devote their whole morning to service.
‘Get a different perspective’
Chris Cleaver, a full-time counselor at Multnomah, led a group of students to Door to Grace, a Portland nonprofit providing restorative care and safe shelter for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. The day home needed some TLC, so students took Windex to mirrors, vacuums to rugs and push brooms to sidewalks. Freshman Johanna Quezada carefully watered the small boxwood trees that stood in a line near the front door.
“This is definitely a cool opportunity,” said the TESOL major. “I love hearing about the different ministries here in Portland. My world can get so small because I live and work on campus, so it’s good to get outside and get a different perspective. We’re at MU for more than just time in the classroom.”
Olivia Botsford agreed. As she wiped the kitchen counters with a washcloth, the psychology major talked about how she appreciates a day devoted to helping neighbors. “We’re not just focused on getting our degrees,” she said. “We want to serve and be in the community, loving people in the real world.”
‘Be a light’
Dean of Students Jon Mathis and Psychology Department Chair Dr. Elliott Lawless joined another group of students volunteering at Drive Away Hunger, the home of Portland Rescue Mission’s vehicle donation and sales program. The men took on yard work, sweeping, raking and cleaning and organizing the auto shop.
Danny Kugelburg, Community Partnership Lead at Drive Away Hunger, leaned against a blue Chevy as he explained the impact of volunteering. “You might not have direct contact with the people we’re helping, but what you’re doing is changing lives,” he said. “We’re a nonprofit that survives solely on the gift of volunteers.”
Kugelburg is an M.Div. student at Multnomah Seminary, so he’s familiar with the school’s mission. But watching it come to life in the auto shop is inspiring. “Multnomah has a desire for its students not to be insulated, but to be a light in the community — in voice and in deed,” he said.
At the Montavilla Community Center, Multnomah students sat at tables piled high with paper plates and colorful ribbons to craft decorations for the center’s upcoming Easter celebration. Sophomore Edwin Granados carefully cut the plates into half moon shapes as he spoke with fellow volunteers. The music major is on the student-led Day of Outreach planning committee and was in charge of promoting the event this season.
Granados said he loves the opportunity to branch out of the University and into the surrounding community. “It’s one of my favorite things to do,” he said. “Our planning committee had a vision — that students could actively love in a way that will last beyond today. I hope this will be a kickoff for people to begin serving more frequently.”
Besides MU's two annual Day of Outreach events, MU students provide more than 100,000 hours of service to the community each year through the University's Student Ministries program.
How have you been impacted by volunteer work? Share your thoughts below.