“Our students work with agencies that directly serve our downtown neighbors through the Melting Pot ministry — active in serving meals and in the Sunday worship services — and with Good Samaritan Ministries. Relationships with these agencies have been active for 16 years or more, and our students serve at the Melting Pot (at least) twice a year,” Beth Anderson, director of Milligan’s Institute for Servant Leadership, said.
Anderson said she considers students’ work at the institute a “catalyst” for downtown community service and charity assistance.
“We organize what we call ‘Service Saturday,’ and these have come about probably in the last 10 years where we identify a Saturday a month, and we go out and serve in the community. That’s where we’ve plugged into the Melting Pot for so many years,” she said. “I always make sure that’s a project for our freshman class — that they have the opportunity to go to the Melting Pot and be introduced to that ministry and see how they can be a part of that.
“In a nutshell, one of the big aspects of the institute is that we help coordinate community service for our students,” she continued. “The opportunities are available to all students, so it’s not just a specific group of students.”
Anderson said they alternate where they go throughout Johnson City and the surrounding area, sometimes finding themselves working with Coalition for Kids, Girls Inc. and other organizations. They’ve even previously helped clean graffiti in downtown Johnson City.
But it isn’t always just about typical charity work, according to Anderson.
“There have always been so many ways we can plug into downtown,” she said. “There was a group of students from Emmanuel (Christian Seminary) who used to go to John Sevier and do Bible studies and just help out a lot with different people’s needs. It was nothing formal; it was just something they felt led to do.
“Some of those things happen organically when you introduce students to those opportunities downtown,” she continued. “Those are the connections you hope they make.”
Charitable downtown organizations like Good Samaritan Ministries have close ties to Milligan, as well. Several leaders at Good Samaritan, including CEO Aaron Murphy, are Milligan graduates themselves.
“My desire and passion were fueled by what was provided for me at Milligan during my time there,” he said. “That’s who we are, and that’s what we’re about.”
Anderson said Milligan students have gained from helping serve residents at the John Sevier Center, in particular.
“I think they find it’s a two-way street. They are helping those individuals but sometimes, those individuals are helping them as they’re building those relationships,” she said.
Developers are expected to convert the low-income housing at John Sevier into commercial space after a $4.6 million loan given to the Johnson City Development Authority to purchase the building earlier this year. This would mean services like the ones provided by the Milligan community and Good Samaritan would likely have to follow.
“We will go where we’re needed because we work all around the community,” Anderson said. “If there’s an opportunity for us to be of service, we will be there.”