On October 28, Clarks Summit University served its neighbors during Community Appreciation Day. Instead of attending classes for the day, students participated in local volunteer work with their residence hall. The mission sites included the Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Riverfront Sports Complex, Keystone Mission and local churches. Students assisted by cleaning and maintaining the grounds, distributing food, doing yard work, preparing for community events and completing other service projects.
Fred Defendorf, resident director of Ridley Hall and leader of the CSU Student Leadership Council, directs Community Appreciation Day. Defendorf explained, “The main point is to get connected with our community, our neighbors.” Community service is the start of interactions that help students and employees build connections and share God’s love. “Obviously, we want to serve them. We want to build relationships with them,” Defendorf states. “There are always these stereotypes that get built into being a Christian school. We just want to let them know we are normal people, and we want to offer our services to them. Relationships are the biggest thing.”
Community Appreciation Day is an opportunity to spread love beyond the boundaries of the university and church. “The point of the church is to go out and reach people,” said Chris Smith, a Counseling major, “not to wait for them to reach out to you.” Smith led a group of students at the Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This group worked on the landscape and upkeep of the school.
While the day is centered around the community, there was a clear impact on students as well. Matt Ford, who led a group at Heritage Baptist Church, reflected, “[Community Appreciation Day] is a great opportunity to walk the walk. It is also a fun way for me to improve my leadership skills. I enjoy being told what the focus of work is and learn how to lead a group to fulfill the work. It allows me to serve in two ways.” Along with community needs, Ford recognized the personal opportunity for growth and development.
Amid a pandemic, the very definition of community has been questioned. CSU focused on the cornerstone of the Christian testimony— God’s love— that is just as essential as ever considering a global health crisis. The actions taken by— and led by— students showcased God’s love through connection and support.
—by Kevin Waldron, Communications-Writing major