Written by Student Assistant Carson Barnett
SALEM, Ore. – The Pacific Lutheran University men's and women's cross country programs spent time volunteering in the community during late August and early September, completing two community outreach projects that have impacted thousands of people in the local community.
On August 29-31st the Lutes spent time volunteering at the Tacoma Rescue Mission preparing meals and sorting clothes. Serving Pierce County since 1912, the Tacoma Rescue Mission helps all people; including clients, volunteers, donors and staff, to become their best. The organization provides emergency services such as shelter and food to the homeless or hurting, along with offering self-sufficiency programs to help lift a person from poverty and break the chains of addictions.
Junior Britt McCracken suggested the service project as a way for the team to better connect with the Tacoma community and realize the positive influence they can make. Over the three days, 28 Lutes volunteered at the rescue mission.
"I learned a lot about how much behind the scenes work has to be done in order for the rescue mission to be successful. I think this was a great opportunity for our team in that it was able to expand people's horizon of what poverty really looks like and was great hands on experience for our team to really connect with our community. We are so fortunate to be able to attend college and have access to opportunities like athletics," said junior Connor Bates.
The Lute cross country program took another full day volunteer trip on Sept. 3, teaming up with the Washington Trails Association and headed to Mount Rainier National Park where they spent time repairing the trails, making it safer to hike for the thousands of citizens who visit the park annually.
The team identified this project because of their love for hiking and the trails and the need to preserve and improve the trails in Washington so that they may be enjoyed in the future. 12 total student-athletes undertook the project, repairing trails and building rock walls to prevent hillside erosion.
"While working on this project I learned how important it is to build trails to last for a long time and I learned about the process and steps in maintaining a safe trail system. This was a really cool experience for myself and my teammates who enjoy hiking because we got to participate in the trails we love using so much," said junior Kyle Rapacz.
The cross country team's service project is one of many volunteer opportunities the PLU Athletic Department participates in during the academic year. Last year the department logged over 3,000 hours of community service in the greater Tacoma area.
The Lutes are back in action on Sept. 30, heading to Salem, Oregon to compete at the Charles Bowles Invitational hosted by Willamette University.