But she also said she doesn’t think the guys need the students, they just enjoy having them around.
Shelter resident Jeff Perry said before he came to the Christian Center, he had always been alone. But the sense of community within the shelter and the relationships with the AU students has changed that.
“Since I’ve been here it’s been a blast to talk to everybody,” he said. “Overall we kind of help each other up instead of put each other down. We love the AU kids. When they’re not here, we’re lost.”
When AU classes are out for long breaks, the men often start to get antsy for the students to return.
Resident Troy Nightborne said that wasn’t the case when AU was on spring break. About 12 students still showed up, which helped show their commitment.
“They don’t see us as homeless,” he said. “We’re residentially challenged.”
Cordell Ford, who runs the kitchen at the Christian Center, said the students’ visits give the men in the shelter an opportunity to have purely positive interactions with other people.
Some residents are usually quiet and withdrawn, Ford said, but they become much more open when they hang out with the students.
“These kids come on their own free will, and it gives the guys a chance to interact with people they normally wouldn’t interact with,” he said.
Freshman volunteer Mia Klaes said when she first signed up for the ministry, she thought it was going to be just like serving at a soup kitchen. She didn’t expect to gain such meaningful friendships.
Klaes said the experience has taught her more about life, who God is and focusing on the present.
“I learn about living in the now,” she said. “In college you think a lot about the future, but the now is important, too.”