Liberty University’s Community Care Initiative held its first Love On Lynchburg (LOL) Day on Saturday, Feb. 23.
More than 100 students participated in 16 community service projects throughout the city, which ranged from cleaning homes of disabled residents to building wheelchair ramps, serving food to the hungry, constructing a youth media center in a low-income neighborhood; playing games, baking cookies, and entertaining residents at nursing homes; and beautifying city spaces.
CCI, launched in September 2012, focuses on meeting the short-term, immediate needs of the community. Every weekend, CCI sends out five to eight care teams of up to 10 students each, all led by students. Liberty fields requests from people seeking help for themselves or for their family and friends and also partners with charitable organizations to help meet their needs. More than 70 projects have been completed, totaling 2,255 hours of service.
Harold Burgess, a resident at Guggenheimer Health and Rehabilitation Center, was delighted to play games with students, bake and decorate cookies, and hear students sing during LOL Day.
“Everybody was having a good time laughing and carrying on — we had a lot of fun,” he said. “I like humor, a good laugh is better than a pill any day.”
He said the experience benefits all the residents, and the students, too.
“It is good for (Liberty) students and it is good for us because we get to know what is going on in the outside world, and they may pick up some bits and pieces of what we went through when we were their ages, and that is good,” Burgess said.
Glenda Fort, director of Parkview Community Mission on Memorial Avenue, was overjoyed to be a part of the first LOL Day. Parkview is the largest nonprofit food pantry in Lynchburg, offering groceries to 1,000 Lynchburg families monthly. They also deliver food three times a week to various households and offer a free dinner every Wednesday night to those in need.
“We love having Liberty students. It is a great experience for them, and it is great for the neighbors we serve to see them,” said Fort. “Liberty historically always has such a great group of students with a great attitude and many of them really connect with our neighbors that walk through the doors, and what they do is priceless.”
Carrie Doron, a junior at Liberty, was the student leader at the site, where the team unloaded a truck with more than 4,000 pounds of food. It was her first time helping at the mission through CCI.
“We are trying to get as many groups together as possible to show the love of Christ in the community and to be the hands and feet of Christ,” she said.
A few miles away, in the Fairview Heights area, students were putting up drywall as they helped to convert an old shopping center property into a youth media center. The project is part of the Y.E.S. (Young Entrepreneurial Spirits) Program, an outreach ministry for 11- to 19-year-olds. It was founded by Liberty alumnus Ron Banks. Children come to the center on Saturdays to learn about video recording and to participate in a Bible study.
“Liberty University has been very instrumental in this program. They donated over 350 computers,” said Banks. “Dr. Will Honeycutt (CCI faculty coordinator) and Liberty students have been a blessing. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that Liberty is helping with the vision God gave me.”
Cory Collea, a senior at Liberty University, was the team leader at the site.
“Putting up drywall is a great way we can serve God and the community. It brings out so much joy. After people do this for the first time, I see they all want to come back and help out. This is really rewarding and humbling at the same time,” Collea said.
CCI’s motto is based on James 2:18: “Demonstrating Our Faith by Doing Our Neighbor Good.”
“Our focus is to find tangible and lasting ways to demonstrate the love of Christ by serving people through short-term projects,” Honeycutt said. “It has always been part of Liberty’s mission to be salt and light in our world, and with such a large base of service-minded people, Liberty is positioned to meet the needs of our community.”
The program is an optional supplement to the 20 hours per semester that is required of all Liberty students in their sophomore, junior, and senior years through the Christian/Community Service Office.
“Students sign up for CCI not because they are doing it for credit or for a class, it is for no other reason than they want to,” Honeycutt said.
He said he hopes a “blitz” service day can be held each semester.
“We want to place as many students as possible in the community and do the most good we can possibly do for our neighbors on that day.”