Clarks Summit University Serves in the Abingtons after Flash Flood

Members News

More than 200 volunteers from Clarks Summit University took an opportunity to serve in the Abington area, which was overwhelmed by flash flooding during the weekend storm. University leaders canceled daytime classes on Tuesday, September 12, to encourage students to serve the community in clean-up efforts and show the love of Christ tangibly.

On Saturday, September 9, a severe storm hit the Clarks Summit region, producing torrential downpours and flash flooding. The storm washed out roadways, inundated homes and tragically resulted in one fatality. Some Defender athletic teams waited out the storm for hours, unable to return to campus even from just a few miles away.

The storm left significant and widespread damage. Days later, debris was still prevalent; some roads remained closed, and landscapes were re-shaped from erosion. With great need in the towns surrounding campus, CSU administration reached out to see how the university community could help. As soon as needs were identified, leaders canceled on-campus classes to give students and employees the time to serve.

“We want our students to learn that an education at CSU is, at its heart, a means to serve others,” explained Dr. Jim Lytle, CSU’s president. “This was all volunteer work, and I am very grateful for our faculty and staff that joined our students moving mud and tree limbs for the sake of our community. South Abington Township, Clarks Summit and Clarks Green have been our home for 55 years, and we love this place. I’m glad we can show our love in this practical way.”

Nearly 180 students and 25 employees set out to help. They dispersed to South Abington Park, Hillside Park, Abington Little Leagues’ Ackerly Field Complex, local businesses and even residential homes.

CSU students repair grounds damaged by storm waters at Ackerly Field Complex, home to Abington Little League.

Little League – Huge Effort

With a tree washed up through the outfield, fences destroyed, and erosion significantly damaging the complex, the Abington Little League was forced to close some of the baseball fields, batting cages and playground area due to the significant damage at Ackerly Field Complex. League officials shared photos of the damage with CSU’s head men’s baseball coach Joshua Knight, but the images couldn’t compare to seeing the destruction firsthand. “Going to see it for ourselves, we knew it would take a lot of hands to get the work done,” said Knight.

The nearby creek burst through its banks and ran straight through one field, flooding more fields behind it. Knight led the Defender baseball team, softball team and other students in removing the debris along the fence. The logs, sticks and earth climbed up to four feet along the fencing, revealing the depth of the floodwaters. With debris removed, the fence could be more easily repaired.

The baseball team has partnered with the all-volunteer Abington Little League in the past, which made it even sweeter for the student-athletes and coaches to help with the cleanup. “The team talked about it the day before and what it means for us and what it means to give back,” said Knight. “Christ sacrificed not only His time, but He gave His whole life to serve other people in situations which were not the greatest. We need to think about making that positive impact. Sure, we could be using this time for something related to baseball or academics, but we’re here to share the love of Christ.”

Serving at the field was nostalgic for many players and coaches. Knight explained, “A lot of us, when we were younger, played Little League ourselves, so it was a positive experience to be back on a smaller field and to be reminded that we are helping a league that has 500 kids that need to play on these fields. It was good to give back to Little League and what it did for us when we were that age.”

CSU students repair grounds damaged by storm waters at Ackerly Field Complex, home to Abington Little League.

Community-Building Experience

At South Abington Park, CSU volunteers raked and collected branches, trees, garbage—whatever the floodwaters brought in. They replaced mulch in the playground area and moved copious amounts of displaced soil. According to Marilyn Luster, director of student employment and career readiness, “Students really were willing to dig in the dirt and make the park look better than when we arrived.”

Luster said the CSU community was equally encouraged by community members. “It was so sweet to see the response of the community. One woman dropped off donuts and told us she was grateful…Another woman mentioned how incredible it was that we came out to help…Community members were a huge encouragement to us!”

Ryan Spinello, a sophomore Pre-Athletic Training major from Virginia, served at South Abington Park and Clarks Summit Elementary School. He said, “We want the Clarks Summit community to know that we care and more importantly that Christ cares for them…It was cool to see everyone rally around the cause; they jumped in and worked well together. It was a community-building experience for us too. It helped me get to know some people that I would not have known without this opportunity.”

Light on the Hillside

CSU students who reside in Loescher Hall have made it an annual tradition to help out at Hillside Park during the university’s Community Appreciation Day each fall. This time, the students went to the familiar place to see an unusual level of destruction. They focused their attention on the Dog Park area, shoveling gravel and debris away from the park and back into the parking areas.

Loescher Hall Resident Director Holden Goehring also works on CSU’s facilities staff. As he served at Hillside, he realized what a tremendous physical undertaking the job required. “What we were able to do that morning would have been weeks worth trying to clean that mess up with a smaller staff. Having all of those hands really sped up the process for them to restore the grounds and driveway so people can use the dog park.”

Goehring appreciated the opportunity for students to serve alongside staff and faculty members. “Students got to see the employees’ servants’ hearts and learn why this kind of impact is important. As a school, we teach them in classes: this is why and how you should serve. This was a unique opportunity to get to apply what they are learning in how to serve each other and the community.

Some of the 200+ CSU volunteers gather at South Abington Park after cleaning up flood damage.

More Opportunities on Mission

CSU students helped residents rip carpet from flooded homes. One group shoveled mud and rock left behind by floodwaters in the parking lots of local businesses like Krispy Kreme and Armetta’s Restaurant and Pizzeria.

“This is a rare occasion of a natural disaster that affected our Clarks Summit neighbors, and we have a resource of manpower that we could employ to help to serve our community,” said Dr. Bill Higley, vice president for academics. “It was an easy decision to send our students out to help where they could, and hopefully, to make a difference in people’s lives. That is who we are as Christ-followers, and it is certainly consistent with the mission of CSU.”

The university’s goal is to prepare students to become Christ-centered, career-ready graduates. While some of that preparation takes place in the classroom, the faculty and staff are intentional about integrating that mission into every aspect of the student experience. The Christ-centered career preparation is also maximized in on campus employment, through NCAA DIII athletics and fine arts, within the residence halls—and, sometimes, through picking up branches and shoveling mud to be a light for Christ in their community.

About Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit University offers Christ-centered academic distinction and practical, real-world experience in an exceptional mix of on-campus and online options for undergraduate, graduate and seminary students. To learn more, visit or call 570.586.2400.