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Columbus nonprofit thanks Bethel for youth convention service project

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The recipients of Bethel College’s on-site service project at the Mennonite Youth Convention (MYC) in Columbus, Ohio, this past July recently surprised college staff with a citation of thanks.

A resolution from the MiraCit Development Corporation’s board of directors, along with a letter from MiraCit director Sharon Francis, arrived in the mailbox of Dale Schrag, campus pastor and director of church relations, thanking the college for the gift of playground equipment to FCI Academy Kindergarten Village in Columbus.

Youth who stopped by the Bethel College booth on the MYC exhibit floor could help put together the equipment, which was delivered and set up at the end of the convention. For the second MYC in a row, instead of giving away T-shirts and trinkets, Bethel’s offices of church relations, admissions and alumni relations, who cooperated on the booth, decided to use the funds designated for the youth convention display to encourage an ethic of service.

In addition to helping build the playground structure, on each of the four full days of the convention, individuals could put a ticket in the hopper. “The more times you visited, the greater your chance of being one of the three individuals chosen on the last day of the convention to select a service organization that will receive $1,000,” said Lori Livengood, Bethel’s vice president for marketing and admissions.

The three youth selected were from Kidron (Ohio) Mennonite Church, University Mennonite Church, State College, Pa., and – for the second straight time – Harrisonburg (Va.) Mennonite Church. Their youth groups have a period of time to decide which organizations will receive the money.

Several Bethel students and admissions staff worked with Phil Hart, a member of Columbus Mennonite Church, to put up the playground structure at FCI Academy Kindergarten Village once the convention was over – including Associate Director of Admissions Clark Oswald, admissions counselor Garrett Whorton, and members of Bethel’s praise band Lost in Lights: 2009 graduates Andy Findley, Michael Unruh and Max Wedel, senior Jesse Goertzen and junior Graham Unruh. The citation and letter from MiraCit also recognized Hart and two other members of Columbus Mennonite Church for helping connect FCI Academy Kindergarten Village to Bethel’s service project.

Looking for ideas for that project, Schrag had contacted Hart, a former admissions counselor at Bethel who lives in Columbus with his wife, Julie Hart, former Bethel professor of peace, justice and conflict studies, who now teaches at Ohio Dominican University. Phil Hart called Melonie Buller, an accountant for an organization that works on housing issue and, through her, found MiraCit and FCI Academy.

FCI Academy High School opened in September 2004 with 27 students in grades 9-11. By spring 2006, FCI Academy had expanded to include grades 6-12, graduated its first senior class and ended the school year with a student body of 400-plus. The following fall, FCI Academy Kindergarten Village opened.

The charter school is closely connected to MiraCit Development Corporation, Inc., a not-for-profit, certified community housing development organization formed in 1993 to spearhead revitalization in economically distressed areas within Franklin County, Ohio. Its principal service area centers on the Mock Road community in northeast Columbus, the location of FCI Academy.

“Even more valuable than the equipment was the sacrifice of time and energy of the student volunteers who labored during the installation,” Francis noted in her letter. “Please accept the attached resolution as an expression of our thanks for your willingness to show forth the love of God through the giving of yourselves to others.

“We trust your students were positively impacted by their day of service at FCI. Our kindergarteners certainly will be once they return to school this fall.”

“Whereas, Bethel College was interested in making ‘service’ the central component of its presence at the Mennonite Church USA Convention 2009 … [and] provided the resources to donate the playground equipment,” the MiraCit citation reads in part, “and whereas, FCI Academy … has the mission to provide an orderly and supportive environment in which students experience preparation for college, career and life, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees extends its deepest appreciation and salutes you, Bethel College and friends, for your special gift.”

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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