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By Tanner Scott

Since 1968, Warner University has been an integral part of the Lake Wales community.  Thousands of alumni have spread across the world, impacting many different communities, thanks largely to their training and preparedness given to them by the faculty and staff at the university.  Warner’s mission statement emphasizes their goal to “graduate individuals who exemplify academic excellence and Christian character, who are prepared to lead and committed to serve.”  In fact, their commitment to serve is so great that they made “Service” their first core value.  The achievements of the students are apparent, yet the faculty and staff took this mission statement one step further.

“We wanted to come together as a community in order to give back to the city,” said Dr. James Moyer, Assistant to the President and the coordinator for Warner Cares, a community service day which gave Warner faculty and staff an opportunity to volunteer their time and efforts to the greater Lake Wales community.  On Thursday, May 14th, Warner partnered with Lake Wales Care Center to coordinate and execute a day filled with service.

Roughly 80 individuals contributed to 480 volunteer hours, with projects ranging from painting city pavilions, cleaning light fixtures at the Lake Wales Library, painting the floors at a Care Center thrift store, and laying sod at Lake Aurora Christian Camp.  Environmental sustainability was also a goal for two different groups.  One group worked at Bok Tower Gardens with their Rare Plant Conservation Program, assisting by collecting seeds and preparing transplants of endangered and threatened Florida natives.  Another group helped create a new path at the Ridge Audubon Society in Babson Park.  The Audubon Society has worked hard to preserve a tract of land which houses a collection of Florida native plant species, as well as provide refuge for resident and migratory bird species.  Warner’s assistance in both of these programs will help to preserve and steward the diversity of Florida wildlife.

This was not the first time Warner has volunteered in such a way.  This is the third year faculty have gathered, and the second year staff members of the university have volunteered their time in such a unified effort.  Beyond the community-building their services provide Lake Wales, Dr. Moyer views this work day as an opportunity to “build community within the Warner population.”  Group dynamics at each work site are highly diverse.  At each site, one would see a math professor, admissions staff member, music instructor, and an administrative coordinator, just to name a few.  This work day was a chance for the Warner community to grow closer to each other.

Dr. Moyer is not stopping here.  He plans to open up the annual Warner Cares day to the students, giving them opportunities to not only serve the community, but to see their instructors living out the ideals they have been teaching for so long.  By doing this, Dr. Moyer estimates their volunteer numbers will grow to more than 500.  This provides a challenge, however, as coordinating such a large service effort proves to be a difficult task. Care Center is no stranger to coordinating such efforts, however. For 30 years Care Center has hosted local and out-of-area groups performing community service efforts all around the greater Lake Wales area.

Students are expected to begin taking part in the Warner Cares program in either 2016 or 2017, depending on availability.  The positive impact such an enormous service project can have is significant, and coordinators want to ensure a good use of community resources and time when preparing for such an event. The Lake Wales community looks forward to the impact Warner University, partnered with Lake Wales Care Center, can have in the future.