Cedarville University’s Student Government Association (SGA) brings service and philanthropy to Cedarville’s backyard with an initiative called “The 937 Project.” SGA chooses a philanthropy project for the student body to support each academic year. This year’s project is in reponse to a student survey cast by SGA this summer.
The project is a partnership with two local organizations to provide not only financial support but also to give students the opportunity to serve alongside these ministries in the community.
Answering God’s call
Target Dayton Ministries is one of the organizations with which Cedarville is partnering. Cindi and Mark Stevens began the ministry as they answered God’s call to be missionaries to the poor and homeless in Dayton.
Target Dayton provides opportunities for evangelism, discipleship ministry, spiritual counseling and other church ministries, particularly to the poor and homeless in the Dayton community. The ministry also provides hot meals, basic supplies and clothing, free haircuts, round-trip transportation to the Target Dayton facilities, and referral services to local social agencies for the poor and homeless.
“Our mission is to be a church for the poor and homeless,” Cindi Stevens said. “To express God’s love to the poor through ministries of compassion and to lead them into a life-changing personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Hope for the hopeless
Since their beginning in 2002, the ministry has put this into practice through serving over 500,000 hot meals and seeing thousands make decisions for Christ, Stevens said.
Over $3 million has been raised to help the poor and homeless in Dayton, she said, and countless people have been counseled through drug addictions, alcoholism and mental illness.
Cedarville students have the ability to be a part of this ministry through helping prepare and serve meals for the guests who come to Target Dayton Ministries. Students can fill a variety of roles from putting food on the plates and serving guests to taking time to talk with the guests and learn their stories.
Melanie Edris, a junior global business major, served with Target Dayton earlier this semester and said she encourages others to volunteer as well.
“It’s a perfect way to get involved if it’s something that maybe scares you a little bit,” Edris said. “They have it down to a science, and you can do anything from eating with people and talking with them to things like opening buns and putting mac and cheese on plates.”
In addition to the food that is provided, there is also a worship service before the meal. Although guests are not required to attend the service, they are always encouraged to come and participate. Edris said this was a highlight of serving at Target Dayton.
“I think the neatest thing was seeing how passionate and excited they were about worship,” Edris said. “They’re on fire for the Lord and to follow him and be like him.”
Meeting a need
Students can also serve the Dayton community through Shoes 4 the Shoeless, another local organization that SGA is partnering with as a part of The 937 Project.
Started in 2010 by Kris Horlacher, a Dayton resident, Shoes 4 the Shoeless provides new gym shoes, socks, underwear and copies of the New Testament for children living in poverty. Horlacher said she was running a mentoring program for homeless children in Dayton when God opened her eyes to the children’s need for shoes and socks.
“A lot of the reason why people don’t recognize this need exists is because when you’re working with children living in poverty, they have so many needs,” Horlacher said. “You just can barely keep up with everything that they need, and so you never get down to shoes and socks.”
The need for shoes and socks might be something that people often overlook, but Horlacher said that it is a significant problem. Many children have come to Shoes 4 the Shoeless with toes grown on top of each other or with bleeding feet, all caused by the lack of properly fitting socks and shoes.
Horlacher said God clearly has been working to bring Shoes 4 the Shoeless into existence and provide what is needed to continue the ministry.
On average, 800 to 900 children are helped each month, which requires around 400 volunteers just to deliver shoes. In addition to that, Horlacher said Shoes 4 the Shoeless needs volunteers to help with other tasks such as inventory and warehousing, as well as the money to provide for what the ministry gives the kids.
However, in the five years that the ministry has been serving the community, Horlacher said God has always provided. The ministry has never had to turn down a referring agency, such as a school, due to a lack of funds or volunteers, she said.
“God cares about us. He cares about our day-to-day needs. He cares about the poor,” Horlacher said. “He cares that there are kids that don’t have shoes and socks and underwear. That matters to God. Those are his kids, and that matters.”
Experiencing the mindset
SGA communications director Adam Wagner volunteered this fall to help with a shoe delivery at a local school.
During a shoe delivery, the volunteers unload shoes and socks and organize them into bins before the students arrive, Wagner said. Once the kids arrive, volunteers help each student find a new pair of shoes.
“We always hear about the cliché, ‘Be the hands and feet of Jesus,’” Wagner said, “but it was a really awesome thing to be on my hands and knees touching these children’s feet, which isn’t all the time pleasant, but it really practically got me in a mindset of what it means to humble myself and serve other people.”
This mindset of service is one of the ways in which SGA is hoping The 937 Project has an impact on the student body, SGA philanthropy director Patrick Holman said.
Holman said he hopes this year’s project will help students be more aware of the community around them and be willing to help the community.
Students served about 250 total hours with Target Dayton Ministries and Shoes 4 the Shoeless in the first month of SGA’s project, Holman said.
Planning for the future
SGA plans to continue to send teams to serve with both of these ministries next semester, as well as to better educate the student body and provide opportunities for students to learn what poverty looks like in the local community, Holman said.
“My goal hopefully is to see students recognize a need,” Holman said, “and to be motivated enough to care about it to want to do something.”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to serve the Dayton community.
Michaela Carpenter is a freshman intercultural studies major and a reporter for Cedars. She loves to travel and spend time with family and friends.