It’s not unusual for those connected with Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore to invest their free time and labor back into the community. However, Friday, March 23, was a monumental showcase of their resolve when students, faculty and staff mobilized in mass as 170-plus volunteers put in nearly 700 service hours.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with just a quick break for lunch and fellowship, the volunteers split up into several groups and spread out to different locations across Jessamine County.
Many cleaned and organized clothes at both The Providence School and the Wilmore-High Bridge Community Service Center.
Another bunch visited with elderly retirees at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center or spent the drizzly Friday with Wilmore utilities director Dave Carlstedt.
The massive community-service project also had much further-reaching applications than Nicholasville and Wilmore as another two groups spent all day packing 22,000 meals for the organization Stop Hunger Now. The meals are slated to be sent out to impoverished people around the world.
The seminary has collectively put almost 2,000 service hours into the surrounding area, said organizer and graduate student Justin Barringer.
“We’ve been doing service projects on a regular basis every month, taking between five and 40 volunteers out into the community,” Barringer said. “But this is definitely the biggest group to date.”
The volunteers met at 8 a.m. in the dining hall on campus for doughnuts along with some encouraging praise and worship music and prayer.
Several family members of those with connections to Asbury also came out to selflessly serve the community.
“My mom goes to school here, and she asked me if I wanted to help out,” Elijah Pettit, 13, said. “I like helping people; I like organizing; I like having a good time. And so I knew this would be an opportunity for me to do all what I like to do.”
Elijah, along with his 11-year-old sister, Autumn, was a part of the first group cleaning up at The Providence School the morning of March 23.
The siblings were brought out by their mother, Melissa Pettit, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Biblical studies and mental-health studies.
“I look for opportunity to get (my children) involved,” Melissa Pettit said. “It seems to be a trend for (the youth), particularly in our society, to focus on themselves. I think it’s important that (my children) learn how to focus on others.”
The main task at The Providence School was the clothing closet that Barringer said the school did not have the staff to maintain. The morning group organized clothes; the afternoon group took the garments to Edgewood Baptist Church.
“The Providence School provides alternative education for those who haven’t flourished well in traditional middle-school and high-school settings. Or they may have family problems, learning disabilities, anger issues or any number of reasons, and the school also provides for several pregnant teenagers,” Barringer said. “There was a lot of work to do when the school (building), initially intended for younger children, switched to alternative education and was reorganized to accommodate. Asbury has been here to help in that transition, dozens and dozens of service hours, everything from curb painting to cleaning.”
Asbury’s president, Dr. Timothy Tennent, was also “prepared to serve” in the clothing closet at The Providence School.
“We just wanted to set aside this day in a way of marking the importance of serving to the community,” he said. “I encouraged the whole faculty, staff and student body to serve if they could.”
Among the faculty was director of communications Amanda Stamper, who summed up what most said by stating she was there to “show the community” the dedication that the seminary has for its neighbors.
“What I’ve learned when I’ve been out in this community is that some folks have a negative perception of (Asbury) or not a valid one ... and this is an opportunity for us to say, ‘We really do care about this community,’” Barringer said. “Not to say we are great (but) to bare witness of our God by taking up a towel and a basin and washing others’ feet.”
Barringer said the group also returned Saturday to do its regular service projects and will continue to do more in the future. However, he said he could not always promise they’d have doughnuts.