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Hundreds of OBU Students Volunteer to ‘Serve Shawnee’ Aug. 21

August 22, 2023

Several hundred OBU students, including freshmen, transfers and upperclassmen, as well as OBU employees, spent Monday morning, Aug. 21, serving the Shawnee community. The volunteers served at locations all around the community for OBU’s annual Serve Shawnee event, held the Monday before the fall semester begins.

Groups served at more than 20 locations around the community, including the Japanese Peace Garden, the Shawnee Public Library, Frontline Shawnee, Community Market of Pottawatomie County and many others.

Serve Shawnee began more than 20 years ago to give back to the Shawnee community and to teach OBU students the importance of local service. Each August, students venture into the community on a Monday morning to locations in and near Shawnee. Upperclassmen and staff lead the groups as they work on various projects including landscaping, painting, cleaning and more.

Gracey Washa of Oklahoma City, a junior studying elementary education is a small group leader who was helping package items at the Community Market.

“It’s just so impactful to get to love on Shawnee, because this is our city, this is our home,” she said. “This is about taking the love of Jesus that we have and sharing it and spreading it to others. I’m blessed to get to talk to the people who work here because they see this as such a great ministry. They all pray together every morning before they start and this is just such a good resource for Shawnee.”

Nathan Goodson, an incoming freshman from Canton, Texas majoring in marketing, was helping with landscaping at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. He too commented about the great feeling that comes from neighbor helping neighbor.

“I think it’s great that we can be there for people who need it,” he said. “It helps them with what they need and it makes you a better person.”

Hannah DeMoss is a senior member of the steering committee. DeMoss and Nathan Chan, also a senior member, are responsible for leading a family group during welcome week. Plus, they are the coordinators for Serve Shawnee.

“I am so grateful to be able to plan Serve Shawnee,” DeMoss said. “This is an OBU new-student orientation tradition, which allows the incoming freshman and transfer students to become familiar with the city of Shawnee and our community partnerships. This experience connects the students with opportunities to serve and become more comfortable in Shawnee by meeting people in our community. Therefore, it is such a blessing that our students are getting the opportunity to know and serve various organizations.”

Noelle Compton, an incoming freshman who will be majoring in psychology pre-counseling with a minor in family and student ministry, has lived most of her life in Shawnee. She was helping with landscaping at the Japanese Peace Garden.

“I think especially since the tornado happened it’s just really cool to see the community come together and OBU is a very vital part of that community,” she said referring to the EF-2 tornado that struck Shawnee, including OBU, on April 19. “I see college students and professors around Shawnee all the time and I think the way that they have a heart to serve is really cool and good for the community.”

Henry Thompson of Colorado Springs, Colo., a sophomore studying international business, is a small group leader, who was working with other students at Frontline Church on Monday.

“We have a lot of projects today with Serve Shawnee and then every month we’re going to try to do projects like these,” he said. “That allows us to get more involved with the community. They are always helping out our school and coming to our events, so we want to help the city in any way we can.”

“We want to find our life as we give it away,” he continued. “We find ourselves and we find our life as we serve and help others. There’s so much joy in helping those in need. We want to give back and just pour into this community and help it grow because it’s our home, too.”

Serve Shawnee is part of Welcome Week, an annual tradition on Bison Hill where new students learn about OBU traditions, build lasting friendships and participate in fun activities together before classes begin. They spend time in small groups, learn the school chant “Ka-Rip” and take “The Walk” to officially welcome them into the OBU family.

OBU President Heath A. Thomas, while helping at the Community Market, was asked what message he hopes “Serve Shawnee” sends to Shawnee.

“OBU is here for our community,” he said. “We serve regularly through Bison Buddies and a number of other service projects to our city. We want our community to know that we are here to serve and to engage. OBU wants to be a crucial part and contributor to the well-being of this incredible city.”

Fall classes begin Wednesday, Aug. 23.