By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Vanessa Lo was willing to pitch in wherever she was needed Saturday, even if it meant handling a nail gun for the first time.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney student admits that part of her community service project was a little nerve-wracking, but she enjoyed learning to install siding at the Habitat for Humanity build site at 17th Street and Avenue P.
“I want to help as much as I can so when I drive by this house I can say, ‘I did that,’” said Lo, a junior from Lexington who will start pharmacy school this fall. “It makes you feel good when you can do something like this to help other people.”
About 25 members of UNK’s Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP) assisted with the house construction as part of The Big Event, the university’s largest single-day service project.
Organized by UNK Student Government, the annual event allows Lopers to give back to the community and say thanks for all the support Kearney provides. Roughly 550 students from a variety of campus organizations participated this year.
“The Kearney community does a lot for us and it’s important for us to give back,” said UNK senior Henrique Adabo, a pre-medical student from Columbus.
Adabo, a member of KHOP and the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, also signed up for The Big Event as a freshman. He believes it exemplifies the UNK student body and their dedication.
“The fact that nearly 600 students are participating is a very special thing,” Adabo said. “I don’t think you’ll see that at many other universities.”
UNK students volunteered at about 60 job sites in the Kearney area, completing spring cleaning, assisting with yardwork, landscaping and painting, building picnic tables and tackling other tasks.
Chapter President Taryn Hadwiger and 12 more members of the Alpha Phi sorority walked the ditches along U.S. Highway 30 while collecting aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other discarded items in big, orange trash bags. The cleanup covered a 1-mile section on the city’s east edge adopted by Kearney Elks Lodge #984. Hadwiger was also part of a similar project a couple weeks ago just west of Kearney, where the Order of Omega Greek honor society sponsors a stretch of highway.
“At UNK, we want to get involved in the Kearney community. We’re here to help and we’re here to support them as much as they support us,” said Hadwiger, a junior from Amherst.
Around 60 members of Alpha Phi took part in Saturday’s event, with students spread across multiple locations. Spencer Kuhl was happy to have them at the highway cleanup site.
“Our Kearney Elks Lodge members are aging and it’s harder and harder to get volunteers,” he said. “This allows us to continue doing this project. Without them, it would be harder to accomplish, that’s for sure.”
For students like Lo, The Big Event serves as inspiration by showing them how to stay involved in community service after graduation.
“We’re literally building a house for somebody,” she said. “That’s proof that we can make an impact in the community.”
PHOTOS BY ERIKA PRITCHARD AND TODD GOTTULA, UNK COMMUNICATIONS