BU Freshmen Take 'First Step' Into Waco Neighborhood

  • News Photo 530
    Photo By: Chris Hansen/Baylor Photography
  • News Photo 531
    Photo By: Chris Hansen/Baylor Photography
Aug. 28, 2002

by Amanda Lewis, Student Newswriter

Incoming Baylor University freshmen were encouraged to begin their college careers Aug. 24 by getting involved in the community. More than 2,000 of the incoming students spent a Saturday morning doing just that, by taking part in "First Step," the fourth annual Welcome Week service project held in a neighborhood near University Baptist Church in south Waco.

Students met at the Ferrell Center before 9 that morning and were bused to the church to receive their assignments. Jobs in the 15-block area consisted of painting neighborhood homes, cleaning alley-ways and doing maintenance work around the church, such as cleaning rooms, pulling weeds in the parking lot and changing light bulbs.

"I really like this type of thing because it's voluntary, so you meet other people interested in helping people out," said Karen Donavan, a freshman from Round Rock.

Students weren't discouraged by the hot August weather during the three-hour work period, thanks to the help of local businesses and Welcome Week staff. Dr Pepper donated water and soft drinks to keep the students hydrated, H.E.B. grocery store donated watermelon, and the university transportation system, "The Ride," shuttled students to and from the work sites.

Used as the central location, University Baptist allowed workers to use their restroom facilities and to rest inside the air conditioned church.

During the weeks prior to the project, Baylor partnered with the City of Waco and Keep Waco Beautiful to select a neighborhood and 10 houses that were in need of repair.

Jessica Truglio, Baylor's coordinator of community service and student involvement, distributed flyers to homeowners in the neighborhood asking if they would be interested in participating in the program.

"It's great because it really motivates [the homeowners]," Truglio said. "Several of them have repaired siding and fixed up their own homes to get ready for us."

The Sherwin-Williams Distribution Center, which also works with Waco Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together, supplied ladders, brushes, rollers and 140 gallons of paint at a cost of almost $3,000.

"We were approached by the city and Baylor four years ago," said John Taylor, Sherwin-Williams human resource manager. "We've probably donated a total of 1,000 gallons of paint over the years."

Homeowners participated in the project by choosing from three base and seven trim colors the week before "First Step" started work in the neighborhood. Many of the residents also interacted with the volunteers and watched them transform their homes and yards.

FirStep was incorporated into the Welcome Week program four years ago as an introduction to Steppin' Out, Baylor's twice-a-year campus-wide community service project. The program gives students the opportunity to serve others, while incorporating the idea that balancing the intellectual, physical, social and spiritual aspects of life will help them become well-rounded individuals.

"I think Baylor is unique because of our Christian heritage, and that's why a lot of people come to Baylor," said Craig Willie, director of the Welcome Week steering committee. "Christianity is an example of being a servant and shows what it means to give to others. You wouldn't be a whole person without that aspect of your life."

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