The Elrod Center enters a season of giving

December 1, 2023

December 1, 2023

By Emma Donley, Staff Writer

Since 1997, the Elrod Center has been dedicated to serving the community around Ouachita, and the holiday season is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the service modeled after Christ. During the months of November and December, the Elrod Center continues its regular work in the community while packaging Thanksgiving baskets and Operation Christmas Child boxes. In addition, they sponsor an angel tree for residents at the Nightingale Nursing Home. 

Thanksgiving baskets have been a tradition at Ouachita since 2006. This year, 250 students, faculty and staff contributed to baskets for 90 households across Arkadelphia, providing Thanksgiving meals for families of all sizes and senior adults. Baskets include all the elements of a Thanksgiving meal including a ham and dessert as well as a Bible, some books and homemade cards. Sodexo partners with the Elrod Center to order and prepare the hams and contribute financially to the project.

Junior Allie Jane Wilson is the current student leader for this project. She has been working with this project since her freshman year.

“It is so much fun to watch people serve and get excited to serve more,” Wilson said. “Many times people deliver one of the boxes and come back and ask for more to deliver.”

Another project, Operation Christmas Child, is a mission project that is almost synonymous with the Christmas season. Thousands of churches from across the world contribute to sending millions of boxes to kids in impoverished counties. Sophomore Mikayla Cook participated in Operation Christmas Child at her home church and decided to bring the tradition to Ouachita. Last year, she and her friends packed 20 boxes, and they wanted to expand their reach this year. 

Cook and her roommate, Rebecca Danuwar, partnered with the Elrod Center to pack 50 boxes this year with funding from Ouachita’s Student Senate and another donor. 

“It’s not just about giving the gifts,” Danuwar said. “They are training the people who give them out to tie it with the story of Christ. It enables those who pack boxes like Mikayla and myself to do international missions from their own country.”

Sophomore Jubilee Collins participated in the project, seeing an outlet for the diffusion of love.

“I serve because God has blessed me and I want to share his love with others,” Collins said. “I think others should value serving because everything God has blessed us with is a gift and we should hold everything with gratitude. We should try to give back to him by serving others with the gifts he gave us.”

The Elrod Center simultaneously enjoys spreading Christmas cheer to both young children and the older population of Arkadelphia. During the Christmas season, many residents at the Nightingale Nursing Home don’t receive any presents. Faculty, staff and students adopt a senior adult to buy them Christmas gifts. This ministry is not about the gift itself, but about making our senior adults feel seen and loved. 

Ouachita’s baseball and tennis teams both contribute to the Thanksgiving Basket project and have been for years.

“There are things much more important in life than winning an athletic contest,” men’s tennis coach Craig Ward said. “It helps keep all of that in perspective.” 

Wilson explained the reason why she thinks students should value serving their community.

“College is a time where we think about ourselves a lot,” Wilson said.“We constantly worry about our grades and our future. Going into the community to serve broadens our perspective. It allows us to think about other people and remind us of what is actually important in life. Ultimately service forces us to humble ourselves and become more like Christ.”

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