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Every semester, students live out Waynesburg University's mission of faith, learning and serving, whether they travel to serve in a Third World country or at home in Pennsylvania. Some students even choose to spend time that could be spent with friends at home to serve over fall or winter breaks. In December 2011, 10 Waynesburg University students served in Greene County, Pa. through the University's annual Greene County Immersion mission service trip.

Before the trip, the students were educated in four major social issues that currently affect those living in Greene County: poverty, homelessness, hunger and education. During the trip, the students assisted several local organizations including the Corner Cupboard Food Bank, the Salvation Army, St. Ann's Good Neighbors Dinner and Produce to People.

Each day began with breakfast and devotions in the Prayer Chapel on the campus of Waynesburg University. From there, the students served at a different organization each day and late into the evening.

Kelley Hardie, assistant director of Student Activities at Waynesburg University and leader of the Greene County Immersion trip, says it was rewarding to experience serving her neighbors in Greene County.

“It was great to see how much hard work, effort and energy each person contributed in making amazing things possible,” said Hardie. “By ringing bells at Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle, we were able to raise over $1600 for the Salvation Army in four hours.”

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As servants for God, we are called to continually give to others. In 1 Peter 4:10, the Bible states “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” At Waynesburg University, students are taught to provide assistance using their specific gifts and talents. Each semester, Community Impact Grants are awarded during Who's Your Neighbor Week to students who want to make a difference in the community. Since the fall of 2009, students have been able to see a need within the local community and apply for a grant to aid their choice of project.

This year, three organizations received a total of $3,000. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Freshman Bonner Scholars and the 2011 Vira Heinz recipients were selected by a committee consisting of university faculty, staff and administration based on the project's value to the community, the project's fundamental short- and long-term impact and its planning and implementation process.

Sarah Brandstetter, Bonner Scholar coordinator and a member of the selection committee, believes that these grants are a blessing to the community and the students through the application of Waynesburg University foundations.

“It is so exciting to see students connect faith, service and learning through civic engagement,” Brandstetter said. “All three organizations have researched our local community to find its needs and have come up with exciting ways to educate and excite the community about these issues.”

Individuals were able to apply for a $500 grant; classes, groups or organizations could apply for a $1,000 grant. Grant recipients are required to complete their project within the current semester and are eligible for one award per school year. Candidates were required to fill out an application that included a budget and a recommendation from a non-family member.

After being reactivated last fall, the Council for Exceptional Children sought to build relationships and a sense of community between local families with students with special needs and University students. The $1,000 grant received will support Activity Day on campus planned for April 21.

Shannon Bartley, junior elementary education major and CEC president, is grateful for the additional funds that will make this day a success.

“We hope this day we have planned not only provides a fun day for the children, but also shows others that people with disabilities are just like everyone else and deserve to be included,” Bartley said.

The University's freshman Bonner class received $1,000 for its Distractions While Driving project. The goal of the project is to raise awareness about the risks of distracted driving through the “Arrive Alive Tour.” The Arrive Alive Tour enables community members to climb into a vehicle and virtually experience distracted driving through a simulator.

Freshman Bonner Scholar and psychology major Kyle Digiandomenico anticipates the positive effects of the simulation.

“We believe if we can save one life by providing individuals with the experiences and information which enables them to rethink their choices, our mission was accomplished,” Digiandomenico said.

The 2011 Vira Heinz recipients received $1,000 for their Mondo Giusto and Garden: Ethical Consumerism and Sustainable Living project. Mondo Giusto will educate the community and campus about practices of fair trade, buying locally and living sustainably. In addition, the Vira Heinz recipients will hold a dedication ceremony for a garden which will serve as a beautiful and sustainable connection between the campus and community.

Megan Peebles, a 2011 recipient and junior interactive design major, hopes their event will showcase the importance of buying locally and cause community members to consider fair trade.

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Since 1998, Dave Calvario, dean of students and the director of the Center for Service Leadership, has encouraged Waynesburg University students, faculty and staff to consider a specific ministry during the holiday season.

With more than 2.3 million Americans behind bars, benevolence and a passion for service can truly impact the lives of children with incarcerated parents during the holiday season.

“Angel Tree through Prison Fellowship's Ministry is a wonderful ministry because it allows us to use our resources to show God's love,” Calvario said. “Sometimes I think we need to get back to letting the church solve some of the problems in our society.”

What began as a small residence-life program has expanded to include all students, faculty and staff at Waynesburg University. According to Calvario, campus organizations and houses typically sponsor a child as well as various academic or business departments.

On a national level, Angel Tree through Prison Fellowship collected and distributed approximately 400,000 gifts to children last Christmas through participating churches or Christian institutions. The University contributed and hand-delivered gifts to more than ten families in the local area.

In addition to the wrapped gift, children receive a word of scripture to encourage and uplift them through the holiday season. On every angel-shaped gift tag, Angel Tree through Prison Fellowship wishes a Merry Christmas and lists Luke 2: 8-14, “This gift is sent to you to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as a message of inspiration.

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