On November 5, 2016, The Andrews University Graduate Student Association (AUGSA) brought the Street Store to Benton Harbor, Michigan. AUGSA partnered with the Street Store to offer a new twist to the traditional clothes-donation service. This past week, AUGSA placed bins throughout campus for students or faculty to place clothes they wanted to donate to those in need.
Students and faculty were given the opportunity to drop off their clothing in the following locations: Lamson Hall, Meier Hall, University Towers, Seminary Commons, the Campus Center and the Social Work Department. On Friday, Nov. 4, members of AUGSA went to the different locations to collect the clothes to be sorted by gender type and size, then folded away to the respective areas.
AUGSA encouraged all from Andrews University to come out and fellowship while reaching out the community. The event was also advertised at New Life Fellowship and other areas on campus to get students to come out and volunteer.
The Street Store was located at Café Mosaic in Benton Harbor. The volunteers started to welcome their guests around 12:30 p.m. despite the later start time at 2 p.m. The owners of Café Mosaic allowed AUGSA to transform from their parking lot into a store with a food court attached.
Carl Cunningham (Master of Divinity, first year), a volunteer, said, “I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to be the example of Jesus by doing exactly what he did when he was here—clothe the naked, feed the hungry and generally minister to the people’s social and physical needs, instead of just their physical needs. It was really moving to see how the people responded to us—it brings a very real sense of gratitude for how blessed I am and it’s also very fulfilling to make someone else’s life better without expecting any favors in return.”
About 350 people came out to attend this event throughout the day, including the volunteers, who helped facilitate the process.
“It was really eye opening to see how some people lived and had so much faith in God. I think of how much more comfortable I live and don’t praise God for things that I should, but take for granted,” said volunteer Jared Marsh (sophomore, medical laboratory science), who was involved with clothes sorting, serving food and community connection through conversation.
AUGSA was able to establish connections with the community, allowing for room to sponsor more events in the Benton Harbor area. This was a great opportunity for the association to market their names to the surrounding neighborhood and show that they would like to be involved in more community projects.
When asked about what goals were met concerning participation, Mark Reid (Master of Divinity, second year), President of the Andrews AUGSA, said, “I think that goal was partially achieved; we had a lot of help the day of the event, but could have used more help folding, sorting, packing, loading and unloading.”
Reid also discussed their future goals, saying, “I think the Street Store is just one avenue, that if continued, can help change the culture of Andrews move from selfishness to selflessness, from being served to serving, from isolation to inclusion.”
Additionally, Reid said that he would eventually like to expand operations to Ruth Murdoch Elementary School and Andrews Academy while partnering with retail stores who are willing to provide racks and mannequins with the support of the students.
Reid said, “We have an opportunity to live out Matthew 25:36-40 and get it right. When we clothe the naked and feed the hungry we live out the Gospel. When we serve the least we serve the King, and in our service we can impact the community with our influence and sow seeds that could one day yield a harvest for the Kingdom and ultimately that is what it is all about.”