Ella DePriest (left) and Sydney Taylor (right) carry tools to start their 2023 fall Tiger Serve Day projects. (photo by Meghann Bledsoe)

Elrod Center presents 53rd Annual Tiger Serve Day

March 28, 2024

By Camryn Stroupe, Opinions Editor

Each semester since 1997, Ouachita students have invested in the Arkadelphia community through Tiger Serve Day, an event coordinating service projects throughout the city presented by the Elrod Center. Tiger Serve Day will be held this semester on April 6, and the Elrod Center has many worthwhile projects planned. 

This semester’s theme is “Rooted and Grounded in Love,” taken from Ephesians 3:17. 

“As Christ followers, we are rooted and grounded in the love of God,” Judy Duvall, director of the Elrod Center, said. “We absolutely cannot keep this love to ourselves. The love we have received from God overflows in service towards others.”

Leigh Anne McKinney, Associate Director of the Elrod Center, also sees the significance in this semester’s theme. “We are helping our students learn how to tangibly demonstrate the love of God,” McKinney said. “We are demonstrating that in a tangible way to our community around us. We aren’t doing this to feel like we are doing something good, but truly to do good and meet needs.”

Students are encouraged throughout campus to sign up for the event. 

“Tiger Serve Day is a unique day where students can unselfishly give back to the city they call home during the school year,” Duvall said. “It’s also a lot of fun to serve alongside peers, faculty and staff, and many friendships are forged on this joyful and purposeful day.”

This semester, the Elrod Center is looking to have 80-100 teams to meet the number of projects they have. 

“If students don’t have a club or organization they’re serving with, we have teams that just need volunteers,” Duvall said. “Don’t hesitate to sign up because you don’t already have a team.”

Lindsay Hachat vacuums an elderly person’s home during Tiger Serve Day of fall 2023. (photo by Meghann Bledsoe)

Tiger Serve Day is important to both Ouachita and the community. “I am proud that service to others is an integral part of who we are as a university,” Duvall said. “A majority of our campus participates in Tiger Serve Day each semester. This day gives our campus a tangible way to serve intentionally and put our faith to work. Our community is small, but it has a lot of genuine needs. Many senior adults cannot do all the work themselves and often cannot afford to have the work done. Nonprofits, schools, nursing homes and churches depend on volunteers for support throughout the year. We also find that our community appreciates the relationships formed with volunteers as much as the work that is done.”

TSD has a rich history in Arkadelphia. “In 1997, a huge tornado struck Arkadelphia,” Duvall said. “We had already planned for TSD and the tornado hit the week before, and we pivoted projects and did cleanup work. It has evolved through the years. When it first started, we had a trailer we stuffed all the tools in. We would push it in and close the door. It’s grown so much since then; we started with a leadership team of about 10 and now have about 30 students.”

The Elrod Center has a history of connecting needs with helping hands in Arkadelphia. “We look at the time we are living in and meet needs around us,” McKinney said. “In COVID we shifted to writing notes for ElderServe and making calls. We couldn’t go into schools, so we made gift baskets and shifted to serving faculty and other ways to support our community through the pandemic.”

Mika Celicourt is a member of the student leadership team that coordinates Tiger Serve Day. “I started with the Elrod Center doing work study, a normal member of the leadership team helping with projects,” Celicourt said. “This semester I started being the chair of projects. People call in to sign up, I get all the projects entered into the system allowing us to know how many and what kind of projects we have and I end up doing the team-matching of assigning specific teams to projects. There’s a lot that goes in behind the scenes, and it has helped me learn to work more with others. It’s not just you doing things, it’s a whole team and takes a lot of people for communications, knowing what is expected of each person and doing their job to make the day great. It’s helped me learn how to collaborate with others and is helping me grow in my faith.”

JD Scott also serves on the Tiger Serve Day leadership team on the publicity committee. “I help design the branding and giveaways for each new Tiger Serve Day theme,” Scott said. “What I love most is that Tiger Serve Day makes serving the community easy, fun and accessible. Community service can seem daunting at times with logistics, coordinating and planning. There are plenty of obstacles that may normally scare people away from projects such as these, but Tiger Serve Day strips away all of those mental barriers and makes hopping aboard easy and stress-free for everyone on campus. It may be a silly analogy, but it’s quite a bit like a wind-up toy. We spend a few weeks planning and making sure every project is getting assigned the perfect team and the right tools, and when the day arrives, we can all relax and focus on God and the people we have the privilege of blessing.”

Rakes are lined up for students to clean yards with during Tiger Serve Day in fall of 2023. (photo by Meghann Bledsoe)

Scott sees the value in serving each semester for TSD. “Proverbs tells us that whoever brings blessing will be enriched,” Scott said. “Doing the Lord’s work is spiritually nourishing. It blesses others, yes, but many don’t realize it blesses us too. Worship through acts of service has the wonderful side effect of putting everything into perspective. Exams seem less daunting. Homework seems less tedious. I always look forward to Tiger Serve Day as it always brings me closer to God and provides me with a very welcome factory reset every semester.”

The Elrod Center is always open to those wanting to serve the community. “The Elrod Center Staff love to visit with students about all the many ways they can be involved in service using their unique gifts,” Duvall said. “Options include tutoring, visiting senior adults, delivering food to families, preparing taxes for residents, visiting the Arkadelphia Human Development Center, Tiger Serve Day and more!”

Not only does the Elrod Center offer service through these programs, but the team also wants to work to connect students with where they can serve best. “One of the great things about the Elrod Center is that if it’s not one of the already-established programs, we will find ways to help you plug in,” McKinney said. “If there’s something in our community that is a great match for our students we are a link to connect them. The best way to serve is out of giftedness. It might be one of these programs we already have, or it might not be, but we know people in the community that we can connect them to. The word on the street is that Ouachita has students that help.”

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