Freshman Service Day largest on record for Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University / Freshman students work to help assemble beds for Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a local nonprofit organization that provides beds for foster children.

Serving others is a required part of the admissions process for incoming freshmen at Southern Adventist University via the school's annual Freshman Service Day.

"Freshman Service Day engages students in service within their first month of being on campus," Southern's Christian service director, Cheryl Craven, said in a news release. "It aligns their Southern experience with the university's mission statement to 'embody academic and professional excellence, and pursue Spirit-filled lives of service.'"

The school experienced its largest Freshman Service Day on record on Aug. 18 with more than 640 students taking part. That bigger impact is attributed to this year's freshman class being the third largest in the school's 130-year history, according to the release.

"The Freshman Service Day event, which is required for all incoming students, was created to ensure that serving others is a part of every student's Southern experience from the very beginning of their time here," Janell Hullquist, the school's editorial manager, said in an email. "Southern has a long history of community service, holding our annual MLK Service Day since 1993 and organizing ongoing service opportunities for all class levels throughout the year through our Christian Service office."

(READ MORE: Southern Adventist University provides $54 million economic benefit for metro Chattanooga, study says)

Students and assisting staff worked on 33 different projects throughout Chattanooga and the surrounding communities. Groups helped with trail maintenance at Red Clay State Park, assisted with tasks at the Samaritan Center, went into local neighborhoods to help residents with various needs and did preparation for the university's local food distribution, one of the school's biggest outreach efforts, according to Hullquist.

"Local food distribution is part of Southern's ongoing efforts to address food insecurity in our region," she said. "In partnership with the Chattanooga Food Bank, Southern regularly invites community members who are facing hunger to come and receive free groceries on campus."

(READ MORE: Southern Adventist University emerges as one of America's most diverse universities)

As part of the project on service day, the Collegedale Police Department joined Southern students in preparing bags of groceries that served approximately 150 families. Students and officers also teamed up to fill 50 emergency bags to be shared with the Tennessee Highway Patrol for motorists broken down on the road. The bags included bottled water, snacks, hand sanitizer and coloring books and crayons, Hullquist added.

(READ MORE: New leader of Southern Adventist University is first alumnus to return as president)

"I really enjoyed Freshman Service Day. Everyone was very energetic and ready to go, and I really loved the enthusiasm," Eliana Hounslow, a freshman physical therapist assistant major who helped with the food distribution project, said in an email. "Service always leaves me fulfilled and knowing that what I had done that day for my community really moved me closer to God."

Email Brandi Dixon at bdixon@timesfreepress.com.