NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Serving together may be one of the best ways for people to learn to know and appreciate each other.
So service is an important part of “Bethel Bridge,” a beginning-of-the-year program Bethel College has designed to help new students feel at home.
Bethel Bridge will be inaugurated Aug. 18-19. Aug. 18 is the official first day of the semester but instead of classes, all students will participate in special convocations (all-campus gatherings), seminars and fun activities both days.
And Aug. 19 from 10 a.m.-noon, the whole student body will work to package 50,000 meals to be given to the Harvey County Food Pantry, housed at the Salvation Army facility on East 6th Street.
Since service is also one of Bethel’s four core values, when Bethel administrators were planning Bethel Bridge, “we wanted to do a project as a way of reinforcing the importance of service, something that would involve all students,” said Brad Born, vice president for academic affairs.
“We remembered the success of the food packaging we did after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010,” he continued. “So we turned to Rick McNary for ideas.”
McNary, a Bethel graduate, founded Numana Inc., the organization that sponsored Bethel’s 2010 meal-packaging event. McNary suggested Outreach, headquartered in Union, Iowa.
Originally begun in 2004 as a mission to people in Tanzania, Outreach now works “to provide safe water, food, medical care and education to children and those in need at home and abroad,” according to its website.
Rick McNary is a vice president of the organization and one of his sons, Isaac McNary, organizes food-packaging events for Outreach, including the one to be held at Bethel Aug. 19.
Born said at first event planners thought the food packages would go to various locations. But when they contacted Barbara Lee at Harvey County’s Salvation Army office, she said the food pantry could take all 50,000.
That led to Matt Hein, assistant director of development, to write an application for a United Way “special projects” grant, which resulted in $1,000 toward the food packaging.
Following the Aug. 19 convocation, the student body will be divided in half, with the first group working until they complete 25,000 food packages before switching with the second group.
To add a little extra fun, the groups will compete to see which one can successfully reach their 25,000 goal in the shortest amount of time.
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.