By Sally Ann Moyer
Members of the Baylor community have been bursting the “Baylor Bubble” for the past 25 years during Steppin’ Out, a day of service in the Waco community that occurs once a semester.
“The purpose is, of course, the tangible of serving Waco, but then I think it’s pretty important because sometimes students catch the service bug, and it also exposes them to the Waco community,” Houston junior Lindsey Warner, 2010-2011 Steppin’ Out public relations chair, said.
The benefits of serving during Steppin’ Out are substantial compared to the amount of time and effort required, said Shreveport, La., senior Sara Elder.
“It’s a rewarding experience, and it’s only a couple of hours on Saturday,” said Elder, who served as Baylor’s Theta Kappa chapter of Chi Omega’s service chair during fall 2010 Steppin’ Out.
After serving during the day, all participants are invited to a block party.
“The day of service, you’re doing work and you’re cleaning things up, and maybe you’re not really interacting with the people of Waco as much, and then you get to the block party and there’s all these kids playing, and families eating hamburgers, and it’s just everyone together in one place,” Warner said.
While Greek organizations typically make up the majority of the participants, even individuals or groups of friends are eligible to sign up, Warner said.
“We don’t want to leave anyone out; you don’t have to be in an organization to serve,” she said.
Volunteer participants sign up online at baylor.edu/steppinout or through the service chair of their organization.
“The service project may not be anything of great value, but even still it’s just the whole purpose behind it of bridging a gap,” Warner said.
Baylor students have served with the Salvation Army in Waco during Steppin’ Out for at least the past two years.
Stanley Goode, director of homeless operations for the Waco Salvation Army, said he appreciates the help.
“It saves us a lot of work. Otherwise it would have taken us three or four days to do what they accomplish in a couple of hours,” Goode said.
Students have helped clean the community kitchen, straighten workhouses and take care of other manual labor needs for the Salvation Army.
While Steppin’ Out is only one day of service per semester, it has served as the catalyst for relationships between students and volunteer opportunities.
“We have had students come since Steppin’ Out, or students who came before and then bring their friends along,” Goode said.
Warner, also a member of Baylor’s Texas Theta chapter of Pi Beta Phi, served with some of her sorority sisters during her freshman year at a Waco Arts Initiative site, and has volunteered there ever since.
“We probably would have known about Waco Arts, but we wouldn’t have gone inside,” Warner said.
Steppin’ Out can also offer participants new volunteer experiences each semester with changes in work sites.
“Fall 2010 was the best experience I’ve had because I felt like we really did work,” Elder said.
Approximately 60 Chi Omega chapter members painted the exterior of a rental property that was the home of a family with young children.
“The family was really happy. They were really excited about it. The house didn’t look really pretty before we started, and after we painted it they kept thanking us,” Elder said.
Steppin’ Out is an important experience for Chi Omega because it serves as the chapter’s major service event beyond its regular weekly service, Elder said.
Potential job sites sign up by contacting the Steppin’ Out committee.
Job sites during spring 2011 included the Family Abuse Center, Salvation Army, Waco Lakeshore Cleanup, Stillwell Retirement Residence and private residences.
A week before Steppin’ Out, the internal and external subcommittees meet to match up sites and participants.
More than 2,600 people and 100 organizations participated in Steppin’ Out during spring 2011, 1,100 more participants than in fall 2010, Warner said.