Martin Serves! set for busy year of community outreach
September 9, 2013
Brandi Belcher wasn’t sure what to expect when she was asked, as a sophomore in the fall of 2005, to be on a task force to create a new community service initiative at Martin Methodist College. Even when the ambitious Martin Serves! program was first unveiled the following summer, she never imagined how massive an impact it would one day have . . . and she certainly never envisioned the day four years later when she would return as a Martin Methodist graduate to direct what is now a nationally recognized model of Christian service and outreach.
When the program first debuted in the summer of 2006, the second word of “Martin S.E.R.V.E.S.” was an acronym for Students Engaged in Reviving Volunteer Efforts in Society – and they were surely that from the outset, working with agencies and individuals throughout Giles County, the south central Tennessee region, and beyond to embody the words of theologian and Methodist founder John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, as long as ever you can.”
Today, the acronym has been replaced by an exclamation point, and after this spring being named to the President’s Honor Roll for Higher Education Community Service for the third time in the past four years, that punctuation certainly fits. For the 2011-12 academic year, the total hours of service by Martin Methodist students totaled 22,478, and, according to the President’s Honor Roll formula calculating the value of service, that equaled $455,185, if someone had to pay for those same efforts.
As the 2013-14 academic year gets started, Belcher has a lengthy list of projects that Martin Serves! will undertake in the coming weeks and months. During the fall semester alone, there will be: two campus blood drives (one in September and one in November); Freshman Service Day on Saturday, Sept. 28, as part of Family Day; the annual Fall Break Trip, this year to be spent Oct. 9-13 in Oklahoma involved in tornado recovery efforts through the United Methodist Church; National Make a Difference Day on Saturday, Oct. 26; the Boo-Out carnival at Halloween and Visit with Santa in December for children in the community; and the programs involving the Pulaski Poverty Project (commonly known as P3), an effort, now in its second full year, begun by current senior Autumn Dennis to raise awareness of the issues of the poor in Giles County and how students can provide help.
Students from Martin Serves! will also continue to assist with Backpack, a program at St. Andrew Memorial United Methodist Church in Pulaski, providing bags of food for children every two weeks, and the college’s Community Garden and its Green Team to address issues of hunger and sustainability, respectively.
A particularly significant event will occur on campus in October, sponsored by the P3 program, when Martin Serves! will screen the documentary, “Redemption of the Prosecutor” in The Martin movie theater and then field questions for the subject of the film, former prosecuting attorney Preston Shipp of Nashville, who re-examined his career choice and his calling as a Christian after he began to counsel children sentenced to life in prison and realized the potential their lives still possessed.
“Redemption of the Prosecutor” is scheduled to be shown on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
All in all, it will be another busy fall schedule for Martin Serves! and for 2008 alumna Brandi Belcher as she coordinates these programs and more.
“When we first started (Martin Serves!) at the beginning of my junior year, my thought was just trying to get the student body involved in something tangible, something more beyond the college and beyond themselves,” she said. “Now, students are coming to Martin Methodist College expecting to apply what they learn in the classroom and in their service efforts to use throughout their lives to address problems locally and globally.
“It’s like a tidal wave of service, and these kids are on fire to do something," Belcher said.