WWU Students Help Community with Cars and Taxes

One of the greatest commissions we have as Christians is to serve. Walla Walla University students are doing that in unique ways.

Students of the Technology Department and the WWU School of Business have teamed up with a local non-profit organization SonBridge to offer workshops for community members. SonBridge is a community service organization that uses its resources to help those referred to them by the Christian Aid Center, YWCA and other similar organizations.

Wolfpack Auto is an auto shop run by students and is a part of the WWU's Technology Department. Automotive students work on cars and do quality work just like any car shop, but they charge less and learn while they work.

In February, Wolfpack Auto partnered with SonBridge to provide a basic car operation and care workshop for single mothers in the community. While the moms absorbed information in a classroom setting, and then moved into the shop for some hands-on work, volunteers from the two organizations entertained their children.

This was the first time the Technology Department offered such a workshop, and they felt it was a success. They plan to offer one each quarter.

"Next time we are expecting even more community participation," says Rob Holm, WWU assistant professor of automotive technology. "A number of local mechanics want to take part in the effort, and they will be helping us next time." Holm taught the classroom portion of the workshop and helped with some of the mechanical work, though a lot of the latter was done by WWU automotive students.

And it wasn't just university students getting involved. Several students from Walla Walla Valley Academy also chipped in, assisting with childcare and cleaning each car after it had been serviced.

In March, students in the School of Business teamed up with SonBridge to offer a tax workshop for community members. All of the attendees were local retired persons.

"They seemed very appreciative of the students' efforts to unfold the mysteries of the Internal Revenue code," says Bruce Toews, WWU associate professor of accounting and finance.

In the past, Toews had his tax students participate in a program sponsored in part by the IRS and AARP to provide free tax help every Sunday in January, February and March to the low-income, elderly, and non-English-speaking community. They typically served 200 to 300 people.

However, over time, the program fell through the cracks. Fortunately, it is being picked up again, and students in the School of Business are again reaching out with their knowledge to help community members understand the intricacies of filing taxes.

"We feel that these workshops are a concrete form of community service," says Holm. "We just want to be able to do something that makes a difference. Maybe we'll even show the community a glimpse of Jesus while we're at it."

July 01, 2008 / Walla Walla University

Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent