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In a year of changes, Service Day stays almost the same

October 7th, 2020

Soccer players spent Service Day rooting out invasive honeysuckle near Kauffman Museum.

Students still shared in one important annual tradition: Service Day, which took place Sept. 23.

Classes were canceled so students could spend several hours serving on campus and in the nearby community.

“Service Day is a physical expression of how Bethel College values an ethic of service,” said Michael Unruh, campus pastor.

Service Day saw its own changes. This year’s service locations were either on campus or within walking distance of campus – instead of throughout North Newton and Newton – and most opportunities took place outdoors.

“With these unique guidelines at play, it would have been easy for Service Day to dwindle in enthusiasm, but our students rose to meet the challenges,” Unruh said. 

Around 340 students took on 28 different service opportunities on campus or in the nearby community.

Unruh said that on-campus projects this year were meant to recognize the maintenance and facilities staff for all the extra work required to open and maintain campus for the 2020-21 school year.

There were branches trimmed, trash collected, paint brushed on, areas cleaned and mulch spread, among other projects.

At the Mennonite Central Committee Central States office, just north of campus, 68 students checked and boxed 2,255 school kits, and folded and baled 300 comforters.

New this year: writing letters to older adults in local retirement communities and nursing facilities, and inmates on death row, and cards to children at Wesley Children’s Hospital in Wichita.

In all, students wrote 461 encouraging letters in hopes of lifting the spirits of the people at these places, who are likely experiencing fewer visitors in the midst of the pandemic.

“Several community partners commented that the amount of work completed by the students exceeded their expectations,” Unruh said.

“Although receiving compliments should not be the primary motivation for serving others, all the students who participated in Service Day should be commended for their excellent service to the community in such a difficult school year.”

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #26 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, and earned its third-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Gold Award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2020-21; is’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to; and is #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities named by as “Best for Financial Aid,” as well as #23 “Safest College Towns in the U.S.,” ranked by for 2020-21. For more information, see


About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.