BOLIVAR, Mo. – The mission statement of Southwest Baptist University calls for the university to prepare students “to be servant leaders in a global society,” so it’s not uncommon for SBU students to serve on mission projects at home and abroad.
One area in which students of SBU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program serve is through the “Servant’s Heart Project,” held in conjunction with the MLK Day of Service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service website, “the MLK Day of Service inspires hundreds of thousands of Americans to come together to serve their community.”
“Our program is very service minded to help promote that Christ-centered nurturing mentality,” said Dr. Steven Lesh, chair of SBU’s DPT program. “It seemed to be a natural fit to blend our institutional/program goals into a public service awareness day in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I remind the students one way to help manage their professional life balance in the future is to be in service of others – volunteerism at its core.”
Legislation was signed in 1983 to mark Dr. King’s birthday as a federal holiday, and was first observed in the United States in 1986. In 1994, Congress designated the holiday, which takes place the third Monday in January, as a national day of service, making it the only federal holiday designated as such. The CNCS website describes it as a “day on, not a day off.”
Some of the local areas where SBU DPT students served on this day included: SBU’s Warren B. Davis Physical Therapy Center, House of Hope, Frisco Highline Trail, Loaves and Fishes, Habitat for Humanity, Polk County Humane Society, Project Linus at JoAnn Fabric (making blankets for the Children’s Hospital), Care to Learn, Henderson Humane Society, Hannibal Regional Hospital Foundation, Mercy Rehab Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Ozarks Food Harvest, Salvation Army, SBU trash pickup, Community Outreach Ministry, Hope’s Closet, North Suburban YMCA in Northbrook, Ill., Humane Society of Southwest Missouri and The Hill Church.
Kristin Richardson worked with three other students at The Hill Church to help prepare the church to make the move to two services. The work included everything from cleaning the church to updating technology. She said it was a great opportunity to serve the church of which she is a member.
“It was really important to me having another opportunity to give back,” Richardson said. “School keeps me so busy that it’s sometimes hard to get involved when they need you most on Sundays, especially since a lot of our exams are on Mondays.
“It was good for me to have a way of giving back to them, spending a whole Saturday, and having a closer relationship with the pastor and his wife and getting to know them a little bit better.”
Timothy Schwisow served with about 20 students at the local Salvation Army primarily organizing books and magazines, but he also found himself helping out in other areas.
“Volunteering is always something I’ve tried to be good about doing,” Schwisow said. “The Salvation Army and this project gave a great opportunity to, not only do it for credit, but it gave us an opportunity to go do it and forget about the credit for a little bit and just work with our classmates, get to know them better.
“That comradery and shared experience, knowing that you’re out there serving, and that we’re in a career path of wanting to serve others and make lives better for them. At the Salvation Army, we were able to directly see (and help) a lot of people who were coming into the pantry. It was a great experience and you could directly see how people were benefited from it.”
DPT students earn credit for their service as part of the Administration and Management course. Lesh created the project in 2013 as a way to be part of the MLK Day of Service.
“Jan-terms are condensed and the short time frames certainly add more stress to the equation of sitting in the classroom,” Lesh said. “The ability to get up out of the seat and do things helps with the mental aspect of being a graduate student.
“Students have to set up the projects, so it gives them a little real-life project management experience. Part of the class is to discuss issues like professionalism, professional service, pro bono activity, as well as hard discussions about professional burnout.”
Acts 20:35 is at the foundation for the “Servant’s Heart Project:” “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
PHOTO 1: The Hill Church (SBU DPT students from left) Gabe Gornet, Caitlin Cotterill, Kristin Richardson and Derek David.
PHOTO 2: Salvation Army (SBU DPT students from left) Ryan Brooks, Brandon Wiler, Mike Matteo, Mike Witty, Dillian McDonald, Jay Patrick and Zach Keith.