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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

In Focus...

Lives of Service

LEADING THE WAY: Sigrun Freeeman (LEFT) and Center for Public Services director Oney Crandall help guide PLU's community service efforts.

By Drew Brown, Scene Editor

Learning to serve; Twice a week, PLU sophomore James Lehman '04 takes his studies down the road from campus to Parkland's James Sales Elementary School.

There, he and his "Little Buddy," fifth-grader SpiritWind One Road, read, talk and Lehman helps SpiritWind with his homework.

"It's fun having him around to help," said SpiritWind.

"PLU's done a great job setting up this program," said Lehman. "It's been a great experience working with SpiritWind. I've learned a lot about myself, how it's rewarding to work with kids."

Lehman is just one of dozens of students serving in the After School Enrichment Program and the America Reads tutoring program. And those programs represent just a fraction of the ways PLU reaches out to the people who make their homes in the university's back yard. An important part of PLU's mission is educating for lives of service, and many students, faculty and staff put that into action every day by finding ways to serve their university and their community.

PLU students can participate in either program as a part of their Work-Study employment or as volunteers. ASEP, created in 1983 by PLU education professor emeritus Helmi Owens, matches PLU students with elementary school students. Also known as the "Big Buddy/Little Buddy" program, it gives children a chance to work one-on-one with a PLU mentor.

America Reads trains students to go into the classroom to teach first-through third-graders reading skills.

"It's amazing to see how the PLU students get as much out of their service work as the children they are helping," said Sigrun Freeman, who coordinates programs for the PLU Center for Public Service. "Students end up loving the kids they work with and realizing they can make a difference. They get hooked."

Center for Public Service leads the way
Established in 1993, the Center for Public Service became a natural bridge between PLU and East Campus, which houses programs offering services ranging from health clinics for babies to continuing education for senior citizens.

"We've developed into a real link between PLU and the community," said Oney Crandall, director of the Center for Public Service. "Developing the Center has really allowed us to connect students, staff and faculty with opportunities to meet needs on many different levels."

TAKING CHARGE: Coleen Lorenz (LEFT) and Jenny Peck, Volunteer Center co-directors.

East Campus, the former Parkland Elementary School at the corner of Pacific Avenue and 121st Street South, houses a coalition of independent and PLU-run service programs. Three are run directly by PLU: The Marriage and Family Therapy Center, the Wellness Center and Second Wind, which provides continuing education for seniors. The remaining space is rented to organizations like the Franklin Pierce School District's Head Start program for low-income preschoolers.

"PLU does a lot more than just rent out space," said Crandall. "East Campus is one of PLU's ways of reaching out to the local community."
In addition to its links with East Campus, the Center for Public Service works to promote community service among PLU faculty and staff through its Volunteer Center and in cooperation with student organizations like the Diversity Center and ASPLU.

"We're trying to show how you can learn about people and the world around you through service-in a way you can't do in the classroom," Crandall said. "By engaging in service, you are engaged with people that have a different perspective."

Kurt Mach, a pastor with Faith Partnerships, raves about the work PLU and the Center for Public Services's Freeman have done. Mach wanted to find a site in the Parkland/Spanaway area to hold a Back to School Supply Carnival, and Freeman enlisted community members, churches and schools to help. In its second year the carnival, which is held at Spanaway Elementary School, provided more than 4,000 children with pencils, crayons, rulers and other school supplies. Two carnivals are already scheduled in the area for 2002.

"Sigrun, as well as the people she works with, are catalysts to service in the Parkland/Spanaway community," Mach said. "What they do has a significant impact."

Volunteers grow through giving
Crandall believes service, especially when it is accompanied by deliberate, thoughtful reflection (often called "service-learning"), creates an immense change in students-especially in their understanding of, and connection with, the world around them.

And students themselves are the best recruiters. Colleen Lorenz '02 and Jenny Peck '04 find opportunities for those who want to help. They head PLU's student-run Volunteer Center.
"The PLU student body is very busy," said Peck, who is also a resident assistant. "It's our job to show them how rewarding and easy volunteering is."

After two years with a Youth Ministry band, Peck came back to PLU in September, and found herself an excellent fit with Colleen Lorenz, a sociology major in her second year with the Volunteer Center, who sees her job as a way to put her commitment to service learning into practice. Lorenz and Peck are the perfect mix-both one part attentive listener, one part enthusiastic leader.

PRESENT DAY: Center for Public Service program specialist Sigrun Freeman wraps gifts at the East Campus Christmas Party.

"It's been very exciting to see more and more students, as well as faculty, getting involved, " Lorenz said. "They are seeing the connection to the community, and the fact they do what we've done-learn through work."

The Volunteer Center works as both a resource and leadership office. With more than 100 agencies on file, the Volunteer Center provides information about specific volunteer opportunities for students, faculty, and staff.

The Center also organizes community service projects throughout the year, including the annual East Campus Christmas Party, which distributes gifts to about 140 children from low-income families.

"This is the only present many of these children will have," Freeman said at the most recent party. "Many of these families can't afford Christmas."

The Volunteer Center also runs the Volunteer Fair, held in early September, which brings between 30 and 50 agencies to campus to recruit students. Into the Streets, held later that same month, sends students into the community to work for a day. Hunger and Homelessness week, held in mid-November, provides educational awareness of poverty issues through forums and other campus activities. Early this month, the Center sponsored Service in Action week. The week of various service activities culminated in ARROW day, a carnival-like event that raises money for one specific local agency. This year, the Children's Museum of Tacoma benefited.

"We're trying to show students that there are a lot of rewarding volunteer opportunities all year long that don't take a huge time commitment," Peck said. "Everyone is working together to get the message out that community service is an important and rewarding activity," Peck said.
Crandall said volunteers get as much-or more-out of giving their time as the recipients of their help.

"Service is a part of PLU's way of thinking, and it's rewarding to see so many of PLU's people serving the community," Crandall said. "It's a profound way to better understand others, and to better understand yourself."

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