Students ‘step out’ to make a difference

Baylor rebuilds its city

By Grace Gaddy

More than 30 Baylor students will swarm the playground at the Piper Center for Family Studies and Child Development in Waco Saturday, and director Barbara Crosby couldn’t be happier about it. The center serves as a lab for family and consumer sciences department majors.

The group arrives each semester as part of Baylor’s university-wide service event, “Steppin’ Out,” in which hundreds of participants give up a Saturday to help their community through various volunteer jobs and service projects. The work they provide both to the center and the greater-Waco community makes a huge difference, organizers and beneficiaries agree.

Crosby called the students’ efforts a “great, great blessing.”

“It is so very helpful for us, because to maintain our playground, we spread mulch under all of our equipment,” she said, adding that this complies with regulations of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

In order to maintain the center’s NAEYC accreditation, terms require playgrounds to have “at least nine inches of cushion wood chip mulch” under all of the equipment, she said. Financially, this places a heavy burden on the facility.

“The mulch itself is a great expense to purchase. We buy a tractor trailer [full], and that will last us for a year,” Crosby said. Without Steppin’ Out’s volunteers getting the job done in a single day, she doesn’t know how they would pay for it.

“They are such a help to us and support in maintaining our playground,” she said.

Her gratitude matches that of several Waco residents, organizations and agencies. Past years have included service to local churches and neighborhoods, the Salvation Army, Caritas food pantry, Waco Center for Youth, the Waco Family Abuse Center and more.

Teams split up and disperse throughout the city, tackling various projects, odd jobs and service opportunities spanning everything from painting houses to planting gardens.

Taipei, Taiwan, sophomore Janice Wong, a member of the Steppin’ Out Steering Committee, said the mission of the event is just to reach out and serve.

“We really just focus on building the community, building a relationship between Baylor students and the community, and also giving students a place to develop leadership,” Wong said.

Stephenville senior Brandon Ratliff, director of the committee, affirmed Wong’s statement, adding that the event sends an important message.

“I think it says that we take our mission about developing servant leaders seriously and that service is a high value for Baylor and Baylor students in general,” he said. “This year, we have about 2,800 students who are going to be serving, which is about double from last fall, which is really great.”

Students will serve at 70 different work sites from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Following, there will be a Block Party at Dewey Park, 925 N. Ninth Street.

The event will feature performances by two local church choirs, Antioch Baptist and Greater New Light Missionary Baptist and Uproar artist Blake Sherman. There will also be free T-shirts, hamburgers and kids crafts including pumpkin decorating.

Matteson, Ill., junior Lauraetta Smith, a member of the committee, said that Baylor Agape Connection will take completed pumpkins to residents at the Regent Care Center of Woodway.

“It’s going to be a great party,” she said, adding she hopes students will come out and enjoy themselves while bonding with members of the community.