More than 400 Emmanuel Christian Academy students and volunteers participated Friday in the school’s annual Making a Difference Community Outreach Day.
The students served meals to homeless, worked in community gardens and made blankets for senior citizens and sick children as part of a 2014 serve-a-thon from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Erin Neely, director of development, said serving others has been a tradition for students at the school since 2003.
“It’s such an amazing experience for the students because it opens up discussion about … how we should serve others,” Neely said.
Neely and students in grades seven through 12 served meals to about 100 of the community’s homeless at St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Sally Baker of Rainbow One, which regularly serves meals to homeless at the church, said the students helped fill the void when there are too few volunteers. Baker also said the presence of the children has made an impact — on the students and people they serve.
“They talk to them and interact with them,” Baker said. “(The children) get to learn the condition of some of the people who live in their community. They also see where the need is and how some people are hurting.”
Hannah Patterson, 17, said students helped prepare food, served meals and placed food in take-home bags for those who came to the church for lunch.
“I think it’s cool that Emmanuel gives us the opportunity to do this,” said Patterson, a junior at the school.
Patterson said she enjoys serving others and hopes the students make an impact on the people they serve.
“We’re showing people love and kindness. Sometimes people don’t give them the time of day,” she said.
Neely estimated that the effort generated about 2,300 volunteer hours of service work at approximately 25 different locations in Clark and Champaign counties Friday.