Alyssa Schermerhorn saw the good work done in Ligonier when residents got together to clean up neighborhoods in her hometown.
She brought the idea back to Anderson University, where students will launch the week-long “Operation Foundation: Project Anderson” beginning Monday.
“We haven’t seen anything on campus that unites everyone in our community,” said Schermerhorn, a 20-year-old sophomore. “Different groups do different things. We wanted something where everyone in every walk of life could participate.”
Participants are asked to sign in at Walnut Street Park before going into the communities.
“I think this is necessary in a time like this when people are feeling bad about the economy and the city’s been on a downturn,” said another organizer, Jesse Luke, a junior in marketing and political science from Yorktown. “This can bring some light to a dark situation for a lot of people. I love it.”
Schermerhorn, an elementary education major, first participated in an Operation Foundation project through her Stones Hill Community Church in Ligonier, a city of about 4,300 in Noble County northwest of Fort Wayne.
The Ligonier project grew from a 2006 mission trip to help Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi, said Stones Hill Youth Pastor Dave Hilbish.
“You see people going around the world to proclaim Jesus Christ or build homes. We thought what would it look like to streamline resources and just stay put where you are and love your neighbor,” Hilbish said.
In 2007, the effort drew other churches, local clubs and residents with 262 volunteers helping to renovate buildings and homes as well as cleaning up neighborhoods. Last year, Ligonier’s Operation Foundation drew 400 volunteers.
Operation Foundation changes attitudes among neighbors who might not have kept weeds out of their yards or who let their homes deteriorate.
“With no agenda other than to love, you break through all kinds of walls. People with a frown on their face and a chip on their shoulder all of sudden have a handshake and smile to give you. It’s amazing to see the changes when you see this stuff happening,” Hilbish said.
From the university perspective, Operation Foundation promotes a weeklong service project to bring physical restoration to the city of Anderson by uniting residents and building up the body of Christ.
Schermerhorn said, “My home church started with it about 2 years ago. They had been praying for 10 years for something like that. It came to pass and they saw such awesome things. We have a high population of Hispanics and Amish and this bridged the cultural gaps. And the downtown looks so much better.”
“I had that same idea for our campus to get involved. We live in this town for four years ... so we felt it was our responsibility to do something about it,” Schermerhorn said.
How to help Operation Foundation: Project Anderson
Participants are asked to check in at Walnut Street Park along Walnut Street between 15th and 19th streets. The week-long schedule is as follows:
Monday, April 20: Opening Service at 5 p.m. at Walnut Street Park Tuesday, April 21: Workday 3-7 p.m. Wednesday, April 22: Workday 3-7 p.m. Thursday, April 23: Workday 3-7 p.m. Friday, April 24: Workday 3-7 p.m. Saturday, April 25: Workday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, April 26: Celebration at 3 p.m. at Walnut Street Park
For information about Operation Foundation: Project Anderson, contact Alyssa Schermerhorn, Project Coordinator, through the Anderson University Department of Student Life at 765-641-4194 or visit www.projectanderson.org
—Scott L. Miley is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.