Students remove a tree from the mangled mess that fell upon one Cedarville village resident's yard. Debris littered the entire village following several hours of 60-75 mph winds left from Hurricane Ike.
by Asheritah Oana '10
September 17, 2008
Cedarville, Ohio—Hurricane Ike’s violent winds made their way to the Midwestern states, leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power, including Cedarville University. The lack of electricity, however, did not squelch Cedarville students’ desire to serve, as dozens of them abandoned their Wii’s, laptops and iPods to help neighboring Cedarvillians clean their yards of the fallen debris.
Some groups were organized by Cedarville staff and professors, while other students took the initiative on their own. Based on the severity of the storm, senior Heidi Bochman knew people would need help cleaning their yards, so after lunch she walked down Main Street to survey the area. “When I’d see people cleaning up, I would just walk up to them and ask if I could help,” she says. “Sometimes it was a quick job of cleaning a couple branches; other times it took longer than I expected. Knowing my time was running short and there was still a cute 80-year-old woman who needed help, I made a couple of phone calls. With my friends’ help, we had her lawn cleared in no time.”
With winds reaching 75 mph — equal to a category 1 hurricane — the level of destruction caught many off guard . . . and left them, suddenly, with a lot of work on their hands. Grateful community members benefitting from students’ service expressed their thanks by handing out cups of water and even inviting the volunteers to stay for dinner. “We were working to meet people’s immediate needs, and they were meeting our physical needs,” senior Mark Miller says. “And what was really neat were the times when we were just walking by looking for work to do and would stop, clean up and never even see the owner of the house. It was special to be able to provide unasked and unsolicited service to members of our community.”
Senior Christie Knott shared how, earlier in the day, she had been frustrated by math homework. So, when fellow senior Kristy McGunnigal received a phone call from one of her church friends asking for help, she jumped at the opportunity to do something useful. The two friends joined another Cedarville student and a faculty member in sawing apart fallen trees and picking up debris.
“In my ethics in business class, we’ve been discussing the fact that to be a leader is first to serve,” says McGunnigal. “It was such a powerful testimony for us to see professors with advanced credentials get down and dirty and serve alongside the rest of us. It was very reinforcing to see them live out the things they teach in the classroom: the importance of selflessness and a willingness to help with tangible needs.”
“It was the highlight of my day,” says Knott. “I felt I was doing something productive that was making a difference in the lives of others, rather than just feeling like I’m increasing my own knowledge here at school.”
The computers are back on, the lights are now working, and students are once again engrossed in their consuming studies. The memories and friendships made through this volunteer effort, however, will long be remembered by all those involved in this Good Samaritan effort.