The Year of Religion at Union kicks off

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By Hanna Squire

On Thursday, Sept. 15 in Old Chapel, the Presidential Interfaith Campus Challenge (PICC) had its first kick-off event to encourage students to serve their surrounding community.

Of those invited, 250 colleges, including Union, were accepted. The challenge will focus on economics, equity and access to education, and will encourage students to volunteer in food pantries, homeless shelters and make meals to serve the needs of Schenectady.

At the event, participants were shown a video clip of Obama asking students on college campuses to volunteer for a charity over a 12-month period.

The volunteer activity is intended for people of various religions or other ethical views to explore the ways their perspectives enhance their volunteer experiences. Obama wants students of all faiths to come together to build bridges and understand each other. Members from local charities came to encourage the student body to reach out to the surrounding community.

Danny Payne, Program Director of Bethesda House, a local homeless shelter, encouraged students to sign-up for projects that will aid the upkeep of the house such as painting and working with clothing donations.

Reverend Phil Grigsby of the Schenectady Inner City Ministry (SICM) asked students to help out at the Emergency Food Pantry, which relies on contributions from individuals and local religious and civic groups for donations and volunteers. Grigsby asked students to help out at the Food Pantry or to set up their own food drives on campus.

Mary Rainey of the Salvation Army also requested that students volunteer for this organization. The Salvation Army is looking for volunteers to help with their food pantry, thrift stores, toy, bedding, and toiletry drives, and the traditional holiday bell-ringing.

Victoria Chee ‘13 asked students to help out with Campus Kitchens, which uses extra food from dining services to make new meals to serve at the City Mission. The kitchen needs help on Saturdays from 12 to 2 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. to help other students create meals and will be hosting a big community dinner later in the year.

“I’m grateful that PICC has recognized the mission of Campus Kitchens and what we do to reach out to the community. I think PICC is a great opportunity for students to connect with each other and the community not only in terms of community service but also in terms of bridging differences,” said Chee. “The purpose of PICC is to provide understanding of other faiths and beliefs and to find common ground through community service. PICC is a great initiative that offers the Union College community a chance gain a new perspective of the world.”

Brooks asked that the students not only sign-up for one of these charities, but to really ask themselves why they choose to help out for personal reflections.

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