By Kathryn Moore
Union students have several opportunities to exercise their philanthropic spirit by serving the urban community of Jackson in ministries such as J-Crib, Hub Club and Hartland.
Jeff Paul, senior psychology major, has volunteered with the urban ministry J-Crib since 2009. He said he wanted a ministry he could pour into while he was at Union, and serving in J-Crib has become one of his favorite things about Jackson.
“I love the urban environment,” Paul said. “The urban kids have so much enthusiasm, but they are also very lost. It’s great to be a part of a ministry where I can bridge the gap between us.”
This ministry, which takes place at Evangelical Christian Church, serves as a way for urban youth to have a safe, Christ-centered place to go on Monday nights.
J-Crib ministry serves dinner, allows the youth to play in the gym and has small group Bible studies. J-Crib also offers tutoring for first- through sixth-graders twice a week.
Union students have the opportunity to serve as small group leaders and tutors for the children. Paul said the most important thing he has learned from serving with J-Crib is patience.
“I’ve worked with the same tutoring student for two years,” Paul said. “He started off so rough, but I’ve gotten to see him open up and become more disciplined.”
The Helping Us Build Club, or the Hub Club, is another urban ministry that focuses on tutoring and one-on-one mentoring.
Hub Club takes place at Jackson’s Area Relief Ministries.
Janie Owen, sophomore social work major, said this is her first semester volunteering at “the Hub,” but she has already seen how her commitment is making an impact.
“It’s a great way to invest in Jackson,” Owen said. “I mentor a third-grade girl every Thursday, and I’ve already been able to see her realize her strengths and talents.”
Between 20 to 30 Union students volunteer once or twice a week as mentors at the Hub Club.
The ministry has also received a grant from the Jackson Family YMCA, so the children can use their facilities to have activity days. However, Owen said they desperately need male mentors for all the boys who come to Hub Club because none of the current mentors are males.
“It’s a great way to be involved with a faith-based organization to teach students leadership qualities from a Christ-centered perspective,” Owen said. “It’s a great way to invest in the Jackson community.”
The desire to do so led a group of Union students about five years ago to create their own urban ministry. The completely student-led ministry focuses on mentoring the urban children who live in Hartland Place Apartments on Old Hickory Boulevard.
Kelsey Meadows, senior philosophy major, is in charge of the Hartland ministry this year, and she said the ministry brings the Gospel to youth living in the complex through the arts.
“We have music, arts and crafts, sports, and photography as activities that the kids can choose to participate in,” Meadows said. “The mentors also do a one-on-one Bible lesson. That is where we really seek to build relationships and plant Gospel seeds in these awesome young kids.”
About 38 volunteers, mostly Union students, work with the youth every Tuesday afternoon.
Mentorship opportunities for new volunteers will be available next semester.
Meadows said the best part of the ministry is getting to pour into the lives of the Hartland kids and their families.
“I’ve learned a measure of great courage and love from these kids,” Meadows said. “Many of them are experiencing very tough situations, love their family, love their friends; but they love us abundantly.”