By Grace Ferrell, News Editor
A red double-decker bus parked between Barefoots Joe and the Penick Academic Complex April 3 drew the attention of students from across Union’s campus.
The bus, straight from England and renovated to be a rolling thrift store, is part of the Red Bus Project, which seeks to raise awareness on college campuses nationwide about the needs of orphans. The project is an extension of Shared Hope, an organization founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife that aids orphans worldwide.
Students can donate clothing to the Red Bus Project while it is on campus or venture in to purchase previously-donated pieces.
“We felt like there are a lot of causes that come and go on a college campus,” said Chris Wheeler, director of student initiatives at Show Hope and co-founder of the Red Bus Project.
“Rather than ask students to become sponsors or ask students to just write us a check, we thought, ‘What if we gave students the opportunity to use stuff to care for orphans?’ So now students can donate or buy clothes and it’s benefiting orphan care.”
The double-decker bus is on its inaugural tour. Over the course of five weeks, it will drive onto 25 private and public college campuses in the Southeast.
“We were really excited about Union just because we have ties here,”said Caleb Chapman, cofounder and art director of the Red Bus project. “It has been a supportive campus of Show Hope in the past as well.”
Each class council is encouraged to organize a community service project, said Meredith Gunn, international business major and senior class president. Union’s senior council helped bring the bus tour to campus.
“It struck a chord with me to take (the idea) back to the council because there was an opportunity to develop a relationship there,” Gunn said. “It was more about a continued relationship to raise orphan awareness and not just a one-time project.”
Union support was high, said Sarah Fess, Show Hope student initiative program associate and bus manager.
“Right when we got here on campus, people were walking up with bags of clothes,” Fess said. “We’ve had (donations) coming all day.”
Kathryn Feathers, freshman media communications major, said she felt compelled to donate because of the project’s worthy cause.
“I really wanted to help orphans, even if it was just by buying some clothes,” Feathers said.
Student-donated clothing keeps the Red Bus project rolling, Fess said.
“We were worried going out because this is only going to sustain itself as long as it has clothes in it,” Fess said. “But we’ve had a really great response.”
Each item donated features a tag telling the purchaser where it was originally donated and allows students to realize their efforts are part of something bigger” Gunn said.
“Every time you are in that bus or have signed up to stay involved, you have changed the world for one orphan,” Chapman said. “That’s huge, and that’s what we are trying to accomplish.”
However, the Red Bus Project does not measure its success by the amount of dollars raised, Wheeler said, but rather by how many students are engaged in and educated about orphans.
Union students can stay involved by becoming student representatives, Wheeler said. She encourages students to be creative regarding ways they can raise funds for orphan awareness.