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The Value of Volunteering: Lincoln University Creates Community Impact

Jenny Schaben | August 17th, 2023

Lincoln University of Missouri (LUMO) knows the value of volunteering. When we give our time to help others and the environment around us, we can connect with our community, exercise known talents, or learn new skills. At Lincoln University, community service opportunities are essential on campus and throughout the Jefferson City area.

“As Lincoln grows, so as the community grows—so as the community grows, Lincoln University grows. We are intertwined,” stated Carlos Graham, liaison for the university and all connections between the community. Graham’s position was created in 2014 when the university sought to develop a tighter relationship with the City of Jefferson, a fundamental agenda for the institution that has continued to this day.

Graham reported on the various community service opportunities created through the university’s collaboration with the city. “We are members of the United Way and can volunteer for any of the 20-plus agencies they have. Many students volunteer with the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoptions Association and the Special Learning Center, which are great opportunities for elementary education majors. LU’s athletic department students also support elementary students throughout the JC school district by reading in classrooms, welcoming students back to school, and more.”

Other events that LU faculty, staff, and students assist with include the JC Host Lions Club peanut sale, SERVE JC’s annual community service day, and MISSION JC’s outreach—an organization of community churches joining together to give back to the community. They work with Lincoln University’s housing department, Residential Life, to create care packages for students. Lincoln University is also heavily involved with the West Side Business Association, East Side Business Association, and the Downtown Business Association.

Lincoln University has further community service opportunities through KJLU—the institution’s public radio station. Volunteers are overseen by KJLU’s General Manager Mike Downey, who is an avid volunteer himself. Downey is on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Central Missouri and has been chair of their marketing committee for 25 years. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the ABLE Learning Center, an adult literacy program, and the Little Explorers Discovery Center, a daycare dedicated to helping low-income families.

community-service-2-800.jpgKJLU volunteers are overseen by General Manager Mike Downey, who has worked at the institution for over 30 years and is an avid volunteer himself.

As someone who understands the value of volunteering, Downey enjoys creating avenues for those to expand their love of music by participating in community service at KJLU. “Many volunteers participate on Thursday nights and weekends. They play the music they enjoy, particularly the genre they like. We have volunteers who broadcast a few blues shows, a reggae show, and play hip-hop, which is a great experience because they program their own music,” reported Downey.

Downey further commented that volunteers not only gain experience and play the music they love but can also receive recognition in their community, creating more connections and opportunities. Volunteers from both Lincoln University and the surrounding area are welcome to join this experience as KJLU—the public radio voice of Lincoln University since 1973—celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Lincoln University’s Community Garden offers a wide range of volunteer activities to both students and the community, as well. One of their most prominent community service opportunities is the Garden ‘n Grow program, offered to 4th-grade students of the Boys & Girls Club during the summer for a 10-week period. Students learn the value of gardening and the many skills required to maintain vegetable beds. They participate in STEM education while performing fun, hands-on activities.


Garden 'N Grow students enjoy the fruits of their labor – freshly harvested vegetables from the Community Garden.

During Garden 'n Grow classes, students also learn about the power of nutrition through lessons by Lincoln University’s Cooperative Extension (LUCE) Human Nutrition and Health Program. Liz Cordray, a member of Central Missouri Master Gardeners who manages Garden ‘n Grow on campus, says that the children’s favorite part of the program is the satisfaction of harvesting and enjoying the healthy snacks linked to the lessons from LUCE’s nutrition program.


Garden ‘n Grow participant stands with her favorite tomato plant that she helped grow.

The Master Gardeners program is a community service project within LU’s Community Garden and is another way for the residents to become involved. All Master Gardeners are volunteers who sign up and carry out specific projects. Cordray commented, “All Master Gardeners are committed to teaching children and adults how to garden. They do volunteer work in any gardening capacity because they enjoy helping people learn how to garden and are committed to serving the community.”

Lincoln University students also play a significant role in the community garden. Football team members have devoted their time over the summer by volunteering at the community garden. LU Community Garden Coordinator Dr. Jessica Epple-Farmer reported that freshman athletes enjoyed the gardening experience so much that they inquired about becoming agriculture majors. Epple-Farmer commented, “The Lincoln University Community Garden provides a way for people to have a sense of good feelings within the community—here in Jefferson City and on our campus—and brings people together in the process.”


Football players moved wheelbarrows full of compost and bark mulch to make the summer gardens possible.

Through these many community service opportunities, Lincoln University is devoted to improving its campus and the City of Jefferson. Volunteering can make a real difference in the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need while creating a better environment and place to live. As University Liaison Carlos Graham said, “It is vital that Lincoln University has a presence in the community and that others know we are willing to help and make a difference. I am excited about our direction with this as Lincoln University continues to grow into the future.”

Community Students Faculty/Staff Athletics Cooperative Extension