Urban Outreach teams provide on-site help to ministries throughout region

Urban Outreach teams provide on-site help to ministries throughout region

Students, like the ones pictured above, volunteered at various locations throughout Georgia and Tennessee.

Courtesy of Rick Harris

While many students enjoy the weekend as a time to relax, 165 Lee students chose to spend last weekend in service at various locations for Urban Outreach.

Led by the Student Leadership Council every semester since 1995, Urban Outreach is a tradition and favorite amongst students.

Mike Hayes, vice president for Student Development and SLC faculty sponsor for 21 years, described the intention behind Urban Outreach.

“The purpose of Urban Outreach is to provide students with experiences to serve in settings around the region on a specific weekend,” Hayes said. “Most of these trips and projects are a bit different than the usual projects in terms of the service involved and the cities in which we serve.”

While funded by the Student Development Office, the event is completely student-led.

Tyler Williams, a junior intercultural studies major and coordinator of the event, believes Urban Outreach provides a unique service opportunity.

“There’s something for every type of servant,” Williams said. “If you want human interaction, behind-the-scenes stuff or if you want to do manual labor, there’s something all across the board.”

This semester’s Urban Outreach went to 10 different locations, planned months in advance, to make sure students could best meet each organization’s needs.

The event sent out 12 groups of students, each with their own faculty or community sponsor.

Rochelle Mayberry, director of First-Year Programs and one of the attending SLC faculty sponsors, described the resulting impact of this semester's Urban Outreach.

“The Independent Sector estimates that a volunteer hour is worth $24.14. One hundred eighty-seven volunteers times 10 hours times $24.14 equals $45,141.80,” Mayberry said. “Pretty incredible.”

Some of the visiting sites included working a 5K for City of Refuge in Dalton, Georgia; painting walls at the Smokey Mountain Children’s Home in Sevierville, Tennessee; assisting the homeless at Safehouse Outreach in Atlanta and sorting clothes at Second Harvest Thrift Store here in Cleveland.

Students and sponsors spent the night at local churches with sleeping bags, overnight items and board games in hand.

Emily Gates, a junior human development major, had a humbling encounter with a man she met at her location, Safehouse Outreach.

“I was able to meet and spend several hours getting to know an older man named Micah,” Gates said. “Through our many exchanges of stories, we found out that we both actually grew up on the same street in a super small town in Virginia Beach.”

Students were not the only ones affected. Corinne Freeman, the director of Social Services at The Caring Place, shared her take after serving as the community sponsor of Hope for the Inner City.

“My favorite moment was a time of prayer (we were asked to pray as we worked), and I felt the Holy Spirit speak into the work we were doing to use it to build relationships with those in the neighborhood we served,” Freeman said.

At the end of the event, each student was given 10 hours of service after participating in an oral reflection.

Ellie Long, a freshman and undeclared major, believes the long-term effect of Urban Outreach will carry on with students for the rest of their lives.

“The goal of it isn’t one weekend and done,” Long said. “It’s in the hope of building the foundation of a life-long commitment to service.”

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