Three Days of Service aids flood-damaged area, builds sense of community in students

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By Joe Shearer, Photo Editor

When environmental disasters strike, an overwhelming amount of aid is often needed to get victims back on their feet.

Omaha and several adjacent areas experienced flood damage from an over-filled Missouri River this summer, and there is still plenty of a mess to clean up.  This year’s Three Days of Service work retreat focused on aiding flooded areas.

During UNO’s fall break, Maverick students teamed with students from Omaha Public Schools and Council Bluff’s Lewis Central High School to help rehabilitate affected areas in Omaha, Council Bluffs and the Salvation Army’s Camp Eppley in Bellevue.

Armed with trailers full of landscaping, construction and painting tools, along with a lot of elbow grease, volunteers worked to help rehabilitate and beautify these areas.

The beautification and restoration projects were held Oct. 15, 17 and 18 in partnership with over 14 area non-profits, including Habitat for Humanity – Omaha, the Salvation Army, Keep Council Bluffs Beautiful and Lauritzen Gardens.

Fall break and the Three Days of Service projects came to a close on the afternoon of Oct. 18.  While many students were resting easy, a few groups were still grinding out chores at Camp Eppley

An energetic bunch from Lewis Central High School was busy restoring the sand in the area playground while waiting for their bus to charter them back home. Pairs of students ran tarps filled with fresh sand to each end of the playground while fellow peers raked everything out evenly. And although the group had been laboring all day, they were still running strong.  A bit of innocent goofing off kept morale up.

As the workday finally closed, the high school students loaded their tools and gear back into their trailers. A couple of the youths reflected on their volunteer experiences over fall break.

“It’s a nice, unique way for us to do something for others and to stand out from other schools,” Lewis Central senior Jorge Villalta said. “People also get to learn things that many don’t know how to do, like learning how to use different tools or build things.”

Lewis Central freshman Luke Sutherland was proud of his team’s work.

“We worked hard, and if you work as a team, a lot can be accomplished,” Sutherland said as he nodded in the direction of the park and playground that his group worked on. The area looked clean and well-kept, with few traces of the flood’s impact being apparent.

This was the seventh year the Three Days of Service project has been in operation. It began from the Seven Days of Service projects that take place during spring break, which was coordinated ten years ago. The goal of these projects is to help those most in need, and there were many affected by the summer flooding. The flood clean up seemed a natural fit for the community service group.

University service projects provide double benefits. Along with helping a person, family or neighborhood in need, the projects also help build a sense of community and selflessness.

“As a metropolitan university, part of our job is to teach students that community engagement should be a part of their lives, regardless of the careers that they follow,” UNO graduate and Three Days of Service coordinator Lindsay Scott said in a press release.

While thousands of area students are on vacation during their respective semester’s breaks, hundred are out in the community lending a helping hand.

To learn more about service work and volunteering through the university, visit unomaha.edu/serve and unomaha.edu/servicelearning.

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