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Lending a helping hand

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REACHING OUT:Luke Stephens, a freshman on the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball team, touches up spots pointed out by senior teammate Joel Okafor, lower left, as the team paints buildings and equipment in Charles Mill Park on Wednesday.
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MANY HANDS, LIGHT WORK: Geese stroll past as members of the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball team paint a shelter in Charles Mill Park on Wednesday.

BY Sara Barker - sbarker@chronicle-tribune.com

Charles Mill Park will look a little brighter after the fresh coats of paint it got Wednesday.

From noon to 3 p.m., the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball team repaired anything that needed to be fixed.

Despite a brief rainstorm shortly after noon, the men painted benches, basketball goals, a shelter house and playground equipment, and sealed the blacktop for the court.

The volunteering effort is a product of a partnership between Indiana Wesleyan and United Way of Grant County, United Way executive director Alicia Hazelwood said.

“I’m so impressed any time we work with Indiana Wesleyan’s athletic teams,” Hazelwood said. “They just do a really great job. They have a really great spirit. They work really fast.”

In the past year, United Way has helped coordinate about eight service projects for IWU athletic teams, including the baseball team building a privacy fence Gas City and painting the inside of an elderly man’s home.

Not only are the volunteering projects a benefit to the community, Hazelwood said, but they make IWU students more aware of life outside campus as well.

“We may see these kids down here playing ball with some of the community on the court, because they now have some ownership over this particular park,” Hazelwood said.

Trevor Hurrell, a junior finance and management major at IWU, said this was the first time he had volunteered in Marion. To him, it was a way of paying the Marion community back for supporting his team.

“It means the world to us to see people in the community out there cheering us on,” Hurrell said. “It sometimes goes unnoticed, but it really does mean a lot to us.”

Canaan Coffey, another junior on the team, said the work went by much more quickly with almost the entire team there rather than if it were just one city employee tasked with getting the work done.

Assistant men’s basketball coach David Osborn said projects like this let his team practice their “I am third” foundation – with God first, others second, and yourself third.

“I think it’s important for people of all ages, but young people in particular, to understand that life is not just about you,” Osborn said.

Marion mayor Jess Alumbaugh made an appearance during the effort, talking to the players and explaining the good they do for Marion.

“This is what is going to make Marion a better place to live,” Alumbaugh said.

Alumbaugh, who grew up playing basketball in Marion, said fixing up Charles Mill Park in particular helps the families who spend time there, since it’s one of the only parks in Marion with a full court.

“Some of these youngsters will say, ‘Hey, that’s my park. That’s where I play. Don’t mess it up,’” Alumbaugh said.

Hazelwood said the next volunteering project United Way is looking into is with the football team in August, though what they will be doing is yet to be decided.