When a Fort Smith resident named Myrtle needed renovations to her home, 40 students from a University of Arkansas - Fort Smith student organization answered the call.
They spent an entire Saturday rebuilding her house -- putting up siding and painting walls, in addition to cleaning. By the time they finished, the house was a night-and-day improvement that came at a much-needed time with the advent of winter.
For Grand College Ministry -- a UAFS student organization also known as REACH -- it was just another opportunity to give back to the Fort Smith community.
The group has given back to the university as well. They’ve provided food for UAFS students during Welcome Week, brought donuts to faculty members, and most recently painted the Sustainable Conservation House, a house on the edge of campus purchased by UAFS that the university is renovating through donations of time and materials.
“The students were here [at the Sustainable Conservation House] on time and didn’t complain once,” said John Martini, associate professor of electronics technology who is overseeing the Conservation House project. “I had to pretty much make them leave because they wanted to keep painting. They just did what had to be done and never griped or complained about anything. They did a fantastic job.”
That attitude is part of a culture of selflessness that the organization has fostered, according to Aaron Rodgers, the college pastor at Grand Avenue Baptist Church where weekly meetings of the group are held on Wednesdays.
“Our organization is rooted in the Christian life and a relationship with Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus calls us to love our community, our neighbors -- everyone we come in contact with,” Rodgers said. “It has been amazing to witness life change among students as they discover true joy, purpose and a profound love for other people."
“Our group definitely has a service heart, and we want to continue to reach out to the community as much as possible,” said John Sturrock of Tyler Texas, the student president of REACH. “Our purpose is to go out like Christ had and serve to the people around us. If that means going out on a Saturday to renovate a person’s house, that’s what we’ll do.”
There will always be residents in the Fort Smith area in need like Myrtle, and students from REACH plan to be there to help for years to come.
“REACH is continuing to grow, and if more students get on board with Aaron’s vision in pursuing Christ and doing whatever it takes to serve our community, we’re going to continue to do that,” Sturrock said. “I look forward to hearing more about college students getting out and doing more in the name of Christ.”