Southern Students Converge on Chattanooga for Community Service Day

On January 20, close to 1,000 students, faculty, and staff ventured off campus to work with area nonprofits as part of Southern Adventist University's 21st annual Community Service Day initiative. The event was organized this year by the Student Association (SA) and Southern’s Christian Service Program.

Community Service Day 2014Student leaders chose “True Beauty” as a theme for the day. Simon Ionashku, senior mathematics major and SA community service director, was inspired by Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign and decided to rally volunteers around a similar concept.

"True beauty is not based on external appearances, but rather an inner quality that is built on moral and biblical truths that are shown through compassion and service," Simon said. "Jesus is the ultimate model for this as He sacrificed Himself to serve others."

Simon searched for a scriptural text that would incorporate the concept and used 1 Samuel 16:7 as a rallying cry to motivate volunteers:

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'" (NLT).

All Southern students participate in community service and service-learning projects as a requirement for graduation, but organizers pray that students will recognize deeper, eternal benefits of helping others.

"I hope they see volunteering not as an obligation, but as the highest honor," Simon said. "That's the message we're trying to send. Be beautiful in the heavenly sense."

Helping streamline this year’s event was the Christian Service Program’s new website, which allows students to keep track of their service hours. It also provides community partners with the opportunity to post projects in which volunteers are needed. In addition to that site, SA led out in many campaigning projects to get students signed up for volunteer projects, including a short campaign video shown at vespers and convocations. But not every student needed multimedia prompting. Brooke Firestone, senior nursing major, has participated in each service day opportunity while at Southern and testifies to the joy that comes from helping others. This year, she and many others volunteered at the Chattanooga Zoo.

"There is nothing like the reward of bettering your community through some humble, hard work," said Brooke.

Garrett Skipper, education curator for the zoo, was grateful for the help.

"It was a fantastic experience," Skipper said. "Because of the sheer number of students helping out, they are able to do in a matter of just a few hours what takes our staff several weeks."

The Christian Service Program began at Southern in 2010 and is supported through contributions by Southern alumni Greg Vital and Russell Friberg, which generate $100,000 annually via responses to their gift-matching challenges. Vital and Friberg invite others to join them in securing the resources necessary to have the program fully budgeted by 2015. For more information about supporting this important initiative, call 1.800.SOUTHERN or visit

Elizabeth Camps Story by Elizabeth Camps Published: Last Edited:

The views and opinions of campus guests do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Southern Adventist University. An individual's or group's invitation to speak or present on campus should not be regarded as a university endorsement of their philosophies and beliefs.