NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – More than 200 Bethel College students, faculty and staff participated in the college’s annual Service Day April 10, returning to locations from past years and also taking on some new projects.
Miriam Regier, junior from Newton, is one of Bethel’s student chaplains. In that role, and as the chair of Bethel’s Service Corps, she helped plan Service Day, when classes were suspended to allow anyone who wanted to participate.
“Service is one of the pillars of Bethel College,” said Regier, who spent the day working at the Harvey County Homeless Shelter. “We should be doing service all the time, but Service Day is definitely one of the most visible acts of service the college [regularly] participates in. Because we are a Mennonite institution, service has historically been huge for us, so taking a day out for service just seems to fit.”
Nathan Eigsti, senior from Hesston, also worked at the homeless shelter with a number of other students, led by faculty members Gail Lutsch, professor of art, and Christine Crouse-Dick, associate professor of communication.
“This was the third Service Day I’ve spent working at the homeless shelter,” Eigsti said. “Our job was to take [material] donations that had been given – be it kitchen supplies, refrigerators, furniture, bedding – and organize them.
“The homeless shelter provides a really valuable resource for people who lose their jobs – it provides temporary assistance and helps get them back on their feet,” Eigsti observed. “Many people from the community have come forward to help, like the two people who donated their house to a family looking for a home.
“Some people may think the homeless shelter is just a place where people come to waste time,” he continued. “But the point isn’t to try to make the shelter a place where people want to stay. It’s functional, so [the staff] can keep trying to find people jobs and housing. It’s not just a place to collect the downtrodden and keep them there. It’s a valuable resource.”
Other groups of students worked at 21 other locations, including Sand Creek Trail, Caring Hands Humane Society, Heartland Pregnancy Care Center, Camp Mennoscah near Murdock, Youthville and Presbyterian Manor in Newton, Inter-faith Ministries of Wichita, Bethel’s prairie restoration project, and at the Harvey County Health Department.
Associate professor of history Penelope Adams Moon led the latter group, which painted walls, cleaned windows and did some outdoor landscaping. The clinic has been a project of CLIO, Bethel’s history club, for several years because of a personal connection – Alice Jantzen, wife of Bethel’s other history professor, Mark Jantzen, works there.
Two students, juniors Kim Schmidt from Wichita and Miriam Friesen from Paoli, Ind., did a new project that actually represented something of a return to “old” ways. They did yard work for retired professor of Bible and religion Duane Friesen, who recently had foot surgery. In return, Friesen made a donation to charity.
“This was perhaps the most unusual [project] this year and one I’d like to see imitated and multiplied,” said Amy Barker, campus pastor and the major organizer of Service Day. “Duane came up with this idea. Service Day used to be a day in which local people could ask Bethel for students to work on their home projects, in return for which they would give a donation to the college. However, instead of donating money to Bethel, Duane will donate $150 to a service or mission organization of the students’ choice from several organizations that he lists.”
Friesen said, “I had a list of about eight or nine charities. They chose to contribute to Offender-Victim Ministries.
“I hope this idea will catch hold,” he continued, “because I know there are people in the area who would love to have students help them out and then would be willing to contribute to service organizations. I think it would have enormous potential. That way, on Service Day students would not only be doing work for organizations but raising money for them as well. All these organizations have a tremendous need for money.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with Kimberly and Miriam, meeting them and getting to know them,” Friesen said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.