Students step up to help community

Students step up to help community

Citizens, church members and Baker University students came together Saturday to participate in the annual community service activity, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, sponsored by Minister to the University Ira DeSpain.

DeSpain said he thinks Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a beneficial program in many ways.

“This clears misperceptions between students and Baldwin citizens,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain said students are generally perceived as partiers, while students often feel the citizens don’t like them.

“This gets college students and area people together working on projects,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain began the program nearly 13 years ago and every September since, area Methodist churches have helped organize the service projects by finding locations where elderly or disabled people need help with general upkeep of their homes.

Renovation projects take one day and usually consist of yard work, painting or minor repairs throughout the house.

DeSpain also teaches a section of the First Year Experience course and has his students participate in Neighbors Helping Neighbors to fulfill the community service requirement for the course.

He said he thinks having his students participate in “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” allows them to have fun and interact with each other outside the classroom. Students enrolled in DeSpain’s FYE class make up a large portion of the student volunteers.

Jessica Porter was one of several students enrolled in FYE giving assistance.

She said she has never painted anything before besides walls in her room.

“Everything’s fun with the exception of having to get up at 6:30 a.m.,” Porter said. “The ladder is the scariest part.”

Porter said she had a good time and is thinking about participating in the program next year.

Joy Uthoff was a citizen who received the help of the Neighbors Helping Neighbors volunteers. DeSpain and several students arrived early Saturday morning to paint Uthoff’s house.

Uthoff was pleased with the results of her newly painted house.

“It’s a nice cooperative effort they do once a year,” Uthoff said. “(It is) a nice group of people, and I really appreciate it so much.”

Neighbors Helping Neighbors has been able to help improve more than 130 homes during the past 13 years.