Classrooms were empty on Carson-Newman University’s campus in Jefferson City earlier this fall, but it was not a holiday.
More than 550 members of the Carson-Newman community took part in the university’s annual Operation Inasmuch.
Teams of students, faculty and staff banded together to help at 38 service project sites across Jefferson, Hamblen, Knox and Grainger counties.
The intentional decisions to not hold classes provided time for students to gain experience serving others, and to do so as a community.
The volunteers helped organizations such as Appalachian Ministries of the Smokies, Habitat for Humanity, YWCA, elementary schools and Boys & Girls Clubs to name a few.
Cleaning, organizing and even gardening was on the “to-do” list. Projects were coordinated with the local organizations through Carson-Newman’s Center for Community Engagement.
Though the day was without lectures or tests, the lessons learned were just as valuable and relevant to carrying out the university’s mission of helping students become “educated citizens and worldwide servant-leaders,” according to university leaders.
Lola Davis, a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, who served as site leader at Morristown’s Tennessee Food on Foot, said she was impressed by the enthusiasm of underclassmen.
“It was really cool to see the freshmen,” Davis noted, “people who are new to [Carson-Newman] and may not have a lot of service experience, reflect on what they learned about the community.
“We spent the day sorting school supplies, and they learned a lot about food insecurity and the struggles low-income families have gaining access to education.”
Matt Bryant Cheney, director of Carson-Newman’s Center for Community Engagement, and Stacia Crawley, the center’s community development coordinator, helped oversee the day.
Cheney noted, “My favorite part is hearing students tell me about things they learned in the community.”
Crawley added that the experience is hopefully one that will leave a lasting impression on the volunteers.
“Operation Inasmuch is important to our students because not only are they able to see first-hand the impact they have made on their communities as a result of their service,” Crawley said, “but they’re also given the opportunity to go out and connect themselves with our partners to continue to build intentional relationships long after (the day) is over.”
In 2006, Carson-Newman — which is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention — was the first college or university to implement Operation Inasmuch.
Founded by former Tennessee Baptist pastor David Crocker, the effort has since been adopted by organizations across the country.
The program’s name stems from Matthew 25:40, where Jesus says: “Inasmuch as you serve the least of these, you serve me.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Carson-Newman University news office and published by Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector.