On Saturday, October 7, two vans full of Union students headed into the community for a remarkable service event. Organized by Matt Talbot Kitchen, Unionites, along with nearly 750 others, assisted in the 21st annual Huskers Helping the Homeless event. During this event, participants were stationed all over Lincoln, including all local Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs, Super Savers, Russ’s Stores as well as South Pointe Mall and spread all over the Downtown area.
Upon arrival at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Downtown Lincoln, Union students met the smiling faces of volunteers who were eager to get people signed in. Once signatures were provided, students entered the church hall to receive a milk jug with a “Huskers Help the Homeless” sticker for collecting donations, a poster-sized sign with similar wording and a well-designed t-shirt for all members to look uniform. Lauren Shields, junior international rescue and relief major commented, “I appreciate the amount of effort that went into the design of these shirts. They’re really nice!”
In groups of three or four, Union students dispersed to various locations across the Downtown region. Some were in front of shops, others walked the blocks in front of offices, and still others, like Christianna Nesmith, sophomore pre-nursing major, were in front of one of the busiest places in Lincoln during Husker’s football games: Barry’s Bar. Nesmith states, “I was a bit intimidated by the idea of standing outside a bar asking for money, but everyone I talked to was appreciative of our efforts.” Danyelle Nesmith, freshman business administration major, describes her perspective as well, “It was, in sorts, a culture shock for me where I went and what I saw, which I think is valuable. I’d probably do it again.”
Students participated in the event for many reasons: serving others on a Sabbath afternoon, spending time with friends and earning community service hours required in various divisions on campus, but all seemed to take more than just credit hours away. D. Nesmith adds, “This was my first year participating in the Huskers Helping the Homeless. The main reason I went was because I had a friend who was enthusiastic about it and thought it would be fun to try. What I appreciated the most was interacting with the football fans. Every time someone came up and said, ‘I appreciate what you’re doing,’ it made spending that time out there more worth it.”
Mary Anne Birai, senior nursing major, expounds on her experience similarly, “I enjoyed interacting with fans and making a difference for our community. I love Matt Talbot Kitchen and they do so much to help the community, so anything I can do to help them out is worth it. I would 100% recommend this to people. You learn a lot about how people interact, especially in your community. Even though it gets tough when people ignore you, the encouragement and compassion of those who do give is worth it. I met so many amazing people with good hearts and that made all the difference.”
Matt Talbot Event Coordinator, Vicky Drozd, has been organizing the event for 8 years and describes its early beginnings, “It started just for the awareness of the working poor and homeless...people were always coming into Matt Talbot’s asking, ‘How can we help?’...Now it’s a great way for volunteers to get involved and spread awareness to working poor and homeless in our community and any age can volunteer.” Drozd described what made the event most impacting to her, “What I enjoy is seeing excitement. It’s so much fun to see you guys come back excited with donations in your jugs. It doesn’t matter if you collect 5 or 500 dollars...that money changes people’s lives...people with drug disorders or those just needing a meal...every dime helps...without all those wonderful volunteers the event wouldn’t happen.”
Each year, this event brings people from all over the community to participate in a mass discipleship, even if just in the simple act of collecting funds for underprivileged individuals in the community. Drozd informed, “Every year the event brings in over $50,000.” This year, the event raised $54,000.
For more information on how you can become involved in service at Matt Talbot Kitchen, visit the Matt Talbot Kitchen website at www.mtko.org.
For more information on other upcoming service projects through Union, email firstname.lastname@example.org who organized Union’s participation in Huskers Helping the Homeless.
Kayla Miller is a junior studying nursing.