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GFU finds many ways to serve


Annual event — Projects range from everyday yard work and maintenance to highly-specialized efforts by university students, professors, employees

Cleaning rooms, doing yard work and painting walls might not seem like a big deal on the surface, but as 2,100 George Fox University students, professors and employees demonstrated during the school’s annual Serve Day Sept. 11, the power of collective effort can transform simple tasks into meaningful acts of service.

For many of the 89 sites — including 56 homes, 16 churches and 14 schools in and around Newberg, Yamhill County, Salem and Portland — volunteer efforts like those on Serve Day are often a blessing because they help complete projects that otherwise might not have been finished for a variety of reasons.

But Serve Day also impacts the community by tackling endeavors where the main obstacle isn’t manpower, but rather expertise and skill, yielding similarly positive results.

By sending out specialized groups, like the group of painters and graphic designers from the art and marketing departments that painted murals at Providence Newberg Rehab Services, the university helps meet some acute needs in the community.

For the past three years, GFU has sent a team to decorate the walls of the pediatric area at the rehab center on Villa Road, transforming a rather drab space into a vibrant and kid-friendly environment.

“They’ve done a great job,” rehab supervisor Trish Vieth said. “Each year it kind of takes on its own character. They were able to complete the clinic this year, so it looks phenomenal.”

The clinic features animal-themed rooms, like the Bear’s Den or the Duck Pond, that are now immediately recognizable because the volunteer artists built on those themes with their paintings and murals. Kids not only know exactly which room they’re going to for therapy, but are excited to be there too.

“The kids just love that,” Vieth said. “It totally draws the kids in. When we opened up we had just bare rooms with some stickers and stuff up, but nothing like it is now. It will be really hard to replicate if we ever leave.”

This year’s big addition was a “window,” in the shape of a mirror, that peers into an aquatic wildlife scene behind the reception desk.

Even Bruins sports teams volunteer together to share their athletic expertise, like the members of the men’s tennis program, which for years has partnered with the Northwest Wheelchair Tennis Association to host a clinic on Serve Day. This year, women’s head golf coach MaryJo McCloskey took a group of players to volunteer at the First Tee of Greater Portland’s children’s course.

Just about the entire education department partnered with Newberg schools this year to administer incoming kindergarten student assessments, while the students in the Cinema Media Communications Department filmed activities at Love INC on Sept. 11 and will produce a video for the charitable organization, which is a major partner of Serve Day.

“I think it’s really important to have students connecting outside of the university, so we like the opportunity to do that,” Serve Day coordinator Rachel Elmer said. “A big part of it is building community between the university, Newberg and the greater area.”