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Vols provide Union massages, landscaping

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JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Nearly 300 Union University students, faculty and staff members took advantage of free chair massages on May 5, thanks to the volunteer efforts of licensed massage therapists from across Tennessee.

Debbie Vann, owner of Pathways of Wellness Massage Therapy in Nashville, Tenn., recruited 21 licensed massage therapists to volunteer their time and travel expenses to give free 10-minute massages.

Vann said her intention was to offer stress relief to the Union community that suffered through a massive tornado Feb. 5 that destroyed about 70 percent of the university’s student housing and caused about $40 million in damage to the Jackson campus.

“I went through Hurricane Andrew, so I understand the stress of going through a natural disaster,” Vann said. “I felt like offering free massages would be a perfect fit.”

Paul Mayer, Union’s director of health services, said the massages were well received.

“It was nice to have so many therapists, and to be able to offer the massages to students and employees,” Mayer said. “It was a good relaxation to take your mind off finals and de-stress for a minute.”

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Some of the massage therapists were members of the American Massage Therapy Association’s Massage Emergency Response Team.

Vann said she was happy to help. “Just for them to say on and on how thankful and appreciative they were, that made it all worthwhile,” she said.

In April, two dozen students and staff from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary spent part of their spring break at Union pulling weeds and tackling other landscaping needs.

A flurry of activity by construction crews erecting new dormitories now is the most visible indicator of the tornado. The Southeastern contingent from North Carolina found a niche, however, in landscaping.

“We saw a school in need and wanted to serve them any way that we could,” said Benjamin Quinn, marketing coordinator for Southeastern’s office of student development. “It was encouraging that it was the immediate reaction of the students to go and help Union,” said Quinn, who planned the April 24-26 Southeastern venture.

In addition to pulling weeds, the Southeastern volunteers cleaned out flowerbeds — some still littered with insulation from the demolished dorms — and planted trees.

“Though we were physically able to help Union by doing basic landscape work around campus, I hope the greatest benefit was the encouragement we offered them by showing our love and support,” Quinn said. The Southeastern volunteers “were encouraged by a school that was hit so hard, yet has bounced back so quickly,” Quinn said. “To see a campus that just weeks ago was virtually in ruins and now is cleaned up with six dormitory buildings framed and in the dry — that is miraculous.”
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Compiled from reports by Tim Ellsworth, Union University’s director of news and media relations, and Lauren Crane, a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.