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Four East TN counties benefit from Carson-Newman “servant-leaders”

Carson-Newman University President Charles A. Fowler (center) stands with more than 550 volunteers of Carson-Newman students, faculty and staff for Operation Inasmuch. The effort led teams to take part in service projects across four counties.

Classrooms were empty on Carson-Newman’s campus Wednesday – but it was not a holiday.

On Sept. 28, more than 550 members of the Carson-Newman community took part in the University’s annual Operation Inasmuch (OI). Teams of students, faculty and staff banded together to help at 38 service project sites across Jefferson, Hamblen, Knox and Grainger counties. The intentional decisions to not hold classes provided time for students to gain experience serving others, and to do so as a community.

The volunteers helped organizations such as Appalachian Ministries of the Smokies, Habitat for Humanity, YWCA, elementary schools and Boys & Girls Clubs to name a few. Cleaning, organizing, and even gardening was on the “to-do” list. Projects were coordinated with the local organizations through Carson-Newman’s Center for Community Engagement.

Though the day was without lectures or tests, the lessons learned were just as valuable and relevant to carrying out the University’s mission of helping students become “educated citizens and worldwide servant-leaders.”

Lola Davis, a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, who served as site leader at  Morristown’s Tennessee Food on Foot said she was impressed by the enthusiasm of underclassmen. “It was really cool to see the freshmen, people who are new to C-N and may not have a lot of service experience, reflect on what they learned about the community,” said Davis, who served as site leader at Morristown’s Tennessee Food on Foot. “We spent the day sorting school supplies, and they learned a lot about food insecurity and the struggles low-income families have gaining access to education.”

Dr. Matt Bryant Cheney, director of C-N’s Center for Community Engagement, and Stacia Crawley, the center’s community development coordinator, helped oversee the day. “Carson-Newman students continue to serve their community at a high rate, and this year was no different,” said Bryant Cheney. “My favorite part is hearing students tell me about things they learned in the community – that we have an organization that takes boats out to clean trash from the lake, for example, or the food safety standards used by our food pantries.”

Crawley says the experience is hopefully one that will leave a lasting impression on the volunteers. “Operation Inasmuch is important to our students because not only are they able to see, first-hand, the impact they have made on their communities as a result of their service, but they’re also given the opportunity to go out and connect themselves with our partners to continue to build intentional relationships long after (the day) is over.”

In 2006, Carson-Newman was the first college or university to implement OI. Founded by Dr. David Crocker, OI has since been adopted by organizations across the country. The program’s name stems from Matthew 25:40, where Jesus says: “Inasmuch as you serve the least of these, you serve me.”

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