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Serve Pensacola 2024: Making a Difference

  • PCC girls help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity
  • PCC students gather supplies to help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity
  • A PCC girl helps clean up at Carpenters Creek through the Serve Pensacola activity
  • PCC girls help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity
  • PCC guys help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity at Carpenters Creek
  • PCC girls help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity
  • PCC guys help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity
  • PCC students help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity

This past weekend, Pensacola Christian College students went out into the local community to assist with a variety of projects for Serve Pensacola. Clad in blue T-shirts made for the event, students helped clean local parks and offered helping hands at one of 23 projects including the Ronald McDonald House, Safe Harbor Medical Pregnancy Center, and Habitat for Humanity. “Our purpose is to show the love of Christ and open doors for evangelism by serving our community,” said Mr. Matt Smith, Student Ministry Coordinator. And the event’s purpose for participating students? “To cultivate a heart for service and develop a mind for leadership and teamwork.”

PCC guys help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity

As a student-led event, Serve Pensacola has been held every year since 2018. Mr. Smith has seen each new effort reach the community in new ways. “Our City Parks and Recreation Coordinator commented that working with our students changed his perspective of college students in general and gave him hope for this next generation,” he shared. “One community leader was shocked to see that students were working, not for college credit, but simply because they desired to serve. She asked why they would volunteer their time to serve without receiving anything in return, which opened the door to share with her the heart of our students to show Christ’s love by serving others.”

Reaching the Community

Melody Burke (Jr., FL) joined a group that enthusiastically picked up trash along Carpenter’s Creek. “The aspect of Serve Pensacola that I loved the most was the heart of the students that came out,” she said. “We finished cleaning the first site much faster than expected, and Mr. Smith gathered us together to talk through our options. He said that the leader of the project had suggested a couple other sites that still needed our help, and he asked if we would be interested in continuing, even though we had already completed the original project. His question was greeted with cheering and shouts of, ‘Yes!’, and I was so encouraged by the enthusiasm of these students to spend their Saturday picking up trash in the hot sun to serve and better our community.”

Freshman Lisle Sotero (MD) was excited to join Serve Pensacola for the first time this year. She joined others to clean at Sanders Beach Corinne-Jones Resource Center. “We were able to reach the local community simply by being among them and to help them out in any way we can because it shows we really do care,” she said. “It was super encouraging to hear passers-by thank us for the work we’ve been doing.”

A PCC girl helps clean up at Carpenters Creek through the Serve Pensacola activity

Choosing to serve at Kiwanis Park, Jhendry Herrera Del Rio (Fr., Dominican Republic) wasn’t sure what to expect apart from stepping out of her comfort zone. “The Lord created this world for us to enjoy, but we should also try to keep it clean,” she shared. “This was an opportunity to brighten someone’s day by giving them a clean space to enjoy and protect God’s amazing creation. One of the few [people] who were there approached one of the other girls and expressed his gratitude for what we were doing.”

“The Lord has blessed us with a place filled with opportunities to serve. He has also given us a thousand reasons to be thankful,” Jhendry continued. She and other students who served alongside were excited to see how serving the community can open opportunities to share the gospel.

Making an Impact

Timothy Mather (Jr., Japan), another student who cleaned at Carpenter’s Creek, enjoyed serving alongside his friends. “Just about anything is better when you can do it with the people you care about,” he explained. “Serve Pensacola is a fantastic way to serve and reach our community because it’s very visible, and it makes an immediate impact on whatever area we were working in. Even if what we were doing seemed mundane, it showed our willingness to help out, and in that way, it showed the love of Christ.”

Madison Higgins (Fr., FL) wanted to participate, but wasn’t sure which project to choose. Then, a friend asked her to join the Ronald McDonald House project. “It was amazing and very eye-opening,” she said. Together, they were able to organize the toy donations alongside other students. “When I was helping, I remember thinking about how I had so many privileges growing up while others were struggling, and projects like the Ronald McDonald House helping and caring for the [those] who struggle was so amazing. Being able to give back to the community in any way is so helpful.”

PCC girls help the community through the Serve Pensacola activity

As a student studying missions, Madison was able to get some clarity about God’s direction in her life. “I remember I was kind of struggling on whether or not missions was where I needed to be,” she explained, “but as soon as I helped with this project, the doubts were gone and it solidified that missions was where God wanted me to be.”

Encouraged by the promotional videos shown in chapel, Dan Dunn (So., WV) also signed up to assist at Ronald McDonald House. “This was a good opportunity to help out,” he shared. “Even though no one may have directly gotten saved, we definitely made an impact not only on the workers but on families. We even had one gentleman come up and talk to us about what we were doing. He was very thankful and interested in where we were from and why we were helping.”

Abigail Griffin (Jr., NC), Student Body secretary who helped plan the event alongside the other officers, was thrilled to see a great turnout. “Last Saturday was a memorable day for PCC as hundreds of students came out and truly served Pensacola,” she said. “Serve Pensacola holds a special place in my heart because it was the last big service project of the semester that was curated by the student body with eager hearts to willingly serve our community and shine the light of Christ!”

Seeing the immediate rewards of the Serve Pensacola projects can be encouraging to those who participated, but the impact they have on the community can never be measured. Only time will tell how these students were able to reach others by offering a few weekend hours to those in the Pensacola area.