Celebrating the broad impact of Ouachita Baptist University’s Ben M. Elrod Center for Family & Community, the center recently hosted the Elrod Family Foundation annual board meeting.

The foundation, established by Ouachita Chancellor Ben Elrod and his family, helps fund the work of the Elrod Center, which provides public service and family enrichment efforts throughout Arkadelphia and the region.

Dr. Elrod, who served as president of Ouachita in 1988-98, helped guide the establishment of the Center for Family & Community, which trustees named in his honor upon his retirement.

Describing the Elrod Center as “a hub of service,” Ouachita President Rex Horne said, “Service is a cornerstone of Ouachita. This is a hallmark of who we are as a university.”

Noting that he has admired Dr. Elrod “for many, many years,” Dr. Horne said, “He has been a great friend and has a great love for Ouachita.” He added that the entire Elrod family serves as “such great ambassadors for us.”

Ian Cosh, vice president for community and international engagement, said the Elrod Center, established in 1997, is turning “sweet 16” this year. “Much like a dearly loved child, those present at its birth have enjoyed and marveled as it has grown and matured over the years into a place where service is modeled and nurtured,” he noted. “From the beginning, the central idea that has driven the center’s work has been a desire to be good stewards of Ouachita’s resources in terms of time, talent and treasure. “

Introducing several Elrod Center staff members and volunteers “whose lives bear testimony to the power of service,” Cosh said, “When we invest in the lives of others through our actions, we become the presence of Christ in someone’s life.”

Among those who shared highlights of recent Elrod Center projects and initiatives were:

Judy Duvall, assistant director of the Elrod Center, cited the center’s Volunteer Clearinghouse and TranServe efforts. Affirming that “a culture of service seems to be growing at OBU more and more,” she said students logged more than 7,000 TranServe community service hours during the past year.

Amy Campbell, a junior biology major from Russellville, Ark., is involved in ElderServe, which connects Ouachita students with senior adults in the community. “It has been one of the most wonderful things in my Ouachita experience,” she said, thanking the Elrod Family Foundation for facilitating efforts to “meet the needs of elders in the community.”

Stacy Beck, a senior political science, history and French major from Sheridan, Ark., is a recipient of a Kluck Student Enrichment Grant, which helps fund entrepreneurial and student leadership projects. Beck organized efforts to make 25 Teddy bears for patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, providing recipients “something to smile about and something to comfort them.”

Leigh Anne McKinney, public school program coordinator, introduced students involved in America Reads and America Counts tutoring programs. She said the Elrod Center is providing 20 trained tutors who are working with about 40 students in area elementary schools.

Chelsea Ariola, a senior early childhood education major from Springdale, Ark., volunteers as an America Reads tutor. Describing her work with the children, she said, “The look on their faces is pure joy and excitement. It’s fun to watch their confidence grow over the year.”

Jordan Snook, a senior business administration major from Little Rock, works with America Counts. He said working one-on-one with students to help strengthen their math skills helps “give them the confidence to go back in the classroom and do well.”

Jake Edwards, a senior business administration major from North Little Rock, Ark., works with the Elrod Center’s semi-annual Tiger Serve Day. Noting that hundreds of students volunteer to do community service projects throughout Arkadelphia, he said, “I can’t share enough how big an impact it is on the students and the community.”

Lauren Jackson, a senior biology major from Arkadelphia, also helps coordinate Tiger Serve Day efforts. “It gives me a whole new perspective on our community here,” she said. “It’s a great way for students at Ouachita to go and serve and to build relationships with the people we serve.”

Other Elrod Center initiatives highlighted during the foundation meeting included Elrod Fellows, EyeServe, Backyard Bible Clubs, Big Brother/Big Sister, applied research, Healthy Relationships Week and Thanksgiving baskets.

Responding to the reports, Dr. Elrod told the students, faculty and staff, “I was thinking as you gave these reports how a little spark can create a big fire. All of these outreaches deal with so many people in the community and the country and the world.

“I’m so thankful for these students who give their time and go out and do things for other people,” he added. “To see what happens to lives is the more important thing.”

For more information about the work of the Elrod Center for Family & Community, visit www.obu.edu/elrod or contact the center at 870-245-5320.

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