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More than 2,000 volunteers turn out en masse for George Fox University's Serve Day

GARY ALLEN - Julia Wenndt, a sophomore majoring in math and economics, chisels out excess concrete applied to a patio area adjacent to the Chehalem Cultural Center as part of the Serve Day effort last week.
In their four years at George Fox University, seniors Sarah Badzik and Sannah Pham have performed a variety of pretty simple tasks as part of Serve Day, like removing blackberry bushes as freshmen to painting as part of the ongoing renovations at Hillside Fellowship last week.

The simple chores become meaningful acts of service not only because they are done for the benefit of others, but the volunteer experience also feels just a little bit different knowing that thousands of other students and staff are making similar efforts at sites across Newberg and the metro Portland area.

"It just feels like more energy," Badzik said. "Even though we didn't work with everyone, it's like we all almost bonded together in a way. We all had a similar goal to help the community out, so even though there are so many people we don't know, it still feels connected in some way."

George Fox shut down its campus Sept. 13 to undertake the collective effort for the 19th consecutive year. More than 2,000 students and employees fanned out to 104 different sites in Yamhill, Washington, Marion, Multnomah and Clackamas counties. GARY ALLEN - George Fox University students and staff congregated at North Valley Friends Church to, among other things, weed and level the children's playground.

"They just come to George Fox and say this is what we need done and us being able to be these servants for them is just really fulfilling," Badzik added. "You're also able to strengthen your relationships so much with the people you're working with. You're all putting in the effort, being together and wanting to help the community is an enriching experience."

North Valley Friends Church, which has been partnering with George Fox on Serve Day since it was created, was abuzz last week, as about 75 volunteers spread out over its large property to do all sorts of landscaping and maintenance projects.

Pastor Leslie Murray says the church compiles a list throughout the year knowing that Serve Day is the one day of the year when it will have the manpower to tackle many of them. GARY ALLEN - GFU students and staff painted the labrinyth at North Valley Friends Church as part of Serve Day.

This year that also included a specialized project: repainting the lines on the church's "labyrinth" walking path. For that, George Fox sent a group of art students, who enjoyed the opportunity to utilize their skills as part of Serve Day. Several other groups did similarly artistic projects, like painting a mural at an elementary school in Portland.

"Not only do we get to work with art in the world, but we also got to share our God-given gifts with the community, which was amazing," freshman Benjamin Cahoon said.

It was a huge help to North Valley member Bryan Boyd, who was part of the committee that installed the labyrinth and led efforts, every couple years or so, to repaint it.

"We did it in the summer a couple years ago with just folks from the church, so it took a super long time," Boyd said. "So it was awesome to have all these people helping. It worked out really well."

Bryan Stewart, who serves as landscape coordinator for the Chehalem Park and Recreation District, had about 10 volunteers out to install trees, shrubs and flowers on a 300-foot stretch next to the sidewalk along Highway 99W near Dundee Elementary School.

The project, which will continue this week, is part of the maintenance agreement CPRD has with the city of Dundee. Stewart said he not only appreciated a few extra helping hands, but the opportunity to share his craft with others.

"The cool thing about the landscaping aspect of the Serve Day project is that it's kind of a legacy there. You can come back through town 10 years from now and say, 'Hey! I had a part in that.' That gets the students excited. They like that idea. The idea that they can learn something, too, that they've never experienced before in regards to horticulture is fun too."

While many students don't know about Serve Day until they show up on campus as freshmen, Christian Hughes has family that also attended Fox, so he was ready for it.

"I think it exceeded expectations just because I've done a lot of volunteering throughout high school, so I just assumed it would be similar to that," Hughes said. "But I really think it is different, just the intentionality behind it and also just how thankful the community members are to have us there and having them serve along side us is just really cool."

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