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From bass to Bacau: An employee’s passion to help

Alumna Rachel Shermer, an EMDH employee, volunteered her time building homes in Romania.

Alumna Rachel Shermer, an EMDH employee, volunteered her time building homes in Romania.

If you have ever had a question about your meal plan, then you have probably talked to Rachel Shermer ‘14. As an account receivable technician for Event Management, Dining, and Hospitality (EMDH), Shermer spends her average day at Illinois State managing all of the University’s meal plans, making sure each one is working properly. Recently, she was able to use her passion for helping others outside of the John Green Food Service Building, as she visited Bacau (Bah-Co), Romania, in October.

As an alum of Illinois State, Shermer has always dedicated her time to service and helping others. Originally from Enfield, Connecticut, she traveled over 1,000 miles to Illinois State to major in agricultural education. While she attended her classes, she also worked as a lunch attendant at Metcalf School and held internships with the Department of Agriculture and the Bone Student Center. She was a member of Encounter Campus Ministry and the vice president of both the Collegiate Future Farmers of America (FFA) and the Illinois State University chapter of Tau Sigma Honor Society.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Shermer became a full-time employee at Illinois State. Outside the office, you can find Shermer attending a Bible study, in the middle of a new craft project, or singing and playing the bass in the gospel band One Reason.

When it came down to it, Shermer had always wanted to use her ability to help others outside of the country: “I was telling my mom earlier this year that one of my goals within the next five years was to go on an international missions trip. I had never been out of the country before and relished the chance to experience another culture while serving others.” She got her chance when Thrivent Builds, a joint group between Thrivent Financial and Habitat for Humanity, asked her if she would be interested in helping to build homes for families in Romania. “God has blessed me with ample resources, an able body, and an eager heart,” Shermer said, “so the question became, why wouldn’t I go?”

When she finally arrived, Shermer was amazed by the hospitality displayed by the Romanian people: “From the moment I was greeted at the airport I was met with nothing but smiles.” Shermer and her group out of 150 volunteers then got to work, constructing approximately 400 roof trusses in five days.

During this time, Shermer said a highlight of her trip was meeting one of the families receiving a new home. Her team of 14 people visited the family in their current one-room apartment. Shermer found that her and her team took up a majority of the living area. She remembers that once her team had all filed into the apartment, the only remaining space was occupied by the one bed that all five family members had to share.

Shermer remembers that even though there was little that the family had, they were kind and gracious hosts. “There was not a hint of shame displayed by the family as they welcomed us into the only home they have ever known,” Shermer said. “The joy at the heart of this beneficiary family was grounded in the hope they now had for their future; a future where their family could grow comfortably and safely in a home they called their own.”

For the little time Shermer was in Romania, the experience was eye-opening: “It provided a fresh wave of perspective, not just on what I view as necessities in my own life but the contentment others have found with far less.”

When asked about what she had learned from this trip, Shermer said: “So often we are held back from opportunities in life because of fear. It can keep us from applying for that job posting we’ve been waiting for, moving into our first apartment, traveling to a city or country we’ve never visited, and even trying something for the first time. I have found as both a student and employee, that Illinois State University fosters a community that supports one another as they look to leap into exciting new ventures. One thing is certain: I could never have taken the leap on my own.”

EMDH would like to thank Shermer for her willingness to serve and help others, both on campus and out of the country.

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