Students show Lynchburg an outpouring of love during service event
When the heavy rain started, Liberty University seniors Caitlyn Parr and Rebekah Hargett weren’t phased. Instead, the Family and Consumer Sciences students reached into their backpacks, pulled out rain jackets, and went back to work digging a new butterfly garden at Old City Cemetery near Downtown Lynchburg.
They were only two of more than 1,600 students, faculty, and staff who participated in Liberty's first Serve Lynchburg event on Saturday, a one-day service blitz aimed at giving back to the City of Lynchburg.
Students were stationed at 60 sites around the city, ranging from day cares to nursing homes and nonprofits.
The day started at 7 a.m. as a sea of red shirts and umbrellas crowded the Liberty University Barnes & Noble Bookstore parking lot where students waited for their service assignments before boarding buses.
“What a great way to give back to our city and show how much we care,” Liberty’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Ron Hawkins said before he prayed over the day. “Today we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and become servants because we never know the impact we may have.”
Tasks varied at each site. Students joined LU Athletic Director Ian McCaw in making meals for the homeless at Lynchburg Daily Bread. Members of the Liberty Flames Football Team picked spinach at Lynchburg Grows. Along the James River, students picked up trash and cleaned public sitting areas with the James River Association.
Hawkins, along with Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser, stopped by to visit students at sites throughout the day.
As Parr and Hargett planted flowers and cleaned the grounds at the historic Old City Cemetery, they said the day had a special meaning.
“Today is important,” Parr said. “It’s easy to get consumed by the ‘Liberty bubble.’ This is a chance for us to get outside of campus and learn more about Lynchburg at the same time.”
Hargett said after living in Lynchburg for the past four years, she saw the day as a way to remember that there’s more to her city than just her college campus.
“I think we can tend to take Lynchburg for granted,” she said. “Lynchburg isn’t just Liberty and college students. There’s a community here.”
Across town at the Lynchburg Humane Society, 100 students jumped off the bus and came ready to help. Students walked dogs, cleaned cages, and cuddled cats.
“It’s been absolutely incredible,” said Taylor Reinson, volunteer and education coordinator for the Lynchburg Humane Society. “These students have done everything I asked them to do, even in the rain.”
Reinson said that when Liberty first asked her how many volunteers she needed, she requested about 100 students, not thinking she would get that many. She said she was blown away by how much support the organization received.
Freshman nursing student Olivia Eshleman said she thought a lot of students would want to sleep in on a Saturday, but was surprised to see so many waiting at the bookstore with her so early in the morning.
“It makes me proud to be part of Liberty,” Eshleman said. “It was great to see so many people ready to represent our campus in a positive way.”