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Students get a day off class, give a day for service

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Whether required (for some) or by choice (for most), service was the primary activity for Bethel College students April 11.

That was the annual Service Day, with classes cancelled and the time dedicated to one of Bethel’s core values.

Projects this year included work at the local Mennonite Central Committee office in North Newton; installing tree cages and new steps at Camp Mennoscah near Murdock; eradicating invasive Tatarian honeysuckle in the Kauffman Museum woods; giving chemistry demonstrations at a local middle school; painting hallways in Thresher Gym; washing windows at Mantz Library; and spreading wood chips on Sand Creek Trail, among other projects.

Most students participated in projects that meant something to them – even those on the “required” end of the spectrum.

The men’s and women’s basketball team project was painting gym hallways, by the women’s locker room and from Thresher Gym to Memorial Hall. Brianne Zerger, freshman from Hutchinson, enjoyed spending her time on this project for three reasons.

“One, because I actually enjoy painting; two, it was fun to do a service project with some of my good friends; and three, Coach Fox treated us with doughnuts after,” Zerger said.

Then there were those students who picked a project purely for personal interest.

Kaitlyn Preheim, junior from Peabody, spent her day at the MCC-Central States office, where she baled clothes, bagged shoes and helped with a pickup of these much-needed items.

MCC collects and ships some of the used clothing it receives to thrift stores and sends some of it to companies that shred the clothes for insulation – totaling thousands of pounds of material aid.

Preheim wanted to participate in this particular project, she says, because she knows MCC relies mainly on volunteer labor.

One campus project was painting trash bins. Cora Ogden, sophomore from Haven, decided to join this group.

“It was really tempting to spend the day off and just sleep in,” she says. “But I decided, ‘Why not, it could be fun’ – which it was for the most part, except the cold.”

However, getting to meet some new people helped cancel out the chill , she adds.

Another project close to campus was the ongoing honeysuckle eradication effort at Kauffman Museum. After spending his second Service Day participating in this project, Andrew Walker, junior from Newton, says it took “work gloves, trowels, deep shovels and a lot of elbow grease.”

He adds that he likes this project because it’s something long-term. “I’m usually rather awful at doing service on a regular or more useful basis. But I really enjoy working with someone to support something they’ve put a lot of time and effort towards. They’ve been [working to eradicate the honeysuckle] for over a decade, I think.”

Moving away from campus, some groups extended helping hands further into the community. One project was at Chisholm Middle School, performing chemistry demonstrations for eighth graders. Dylan Jantz, freshman from Newton, had a simple reason for volunteering for this project: he enjoys doing chemistry.

With so many options, students could find something that fits their interest – but for the most part, they participated in service because they enjoy giving back.

“Nothing compares to service. Performing service is helping with no pay in return,” says Trey Ronnebaum, senior from Wichita who also participated in the chemistry presentations. “Everyone enjoys [being served], but the true gift is when you are the one performing a service for others.”

Although Service Day could have easily been spent relaxing or catching up on schoolwork, to many students the “service” part was more important.

“I think that in my busy life at college, it is easy to spend that day for myself,” says Patrick Loganbill, junior from Wichita, “but ultimately, serving others is much more important to me.” He joined the group that went to Camp Mennoscah.

He adds, “I try to think about the Bible verse in Acts 20:35, which says: ‘In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’”

Some students found that doing service off-campus was a nice way to loosen up and to de-stress.

“Service Day feels more like an entire day off from Bethel: homework, your usual group of friends, etc.,” Walker says. “You can just drop everything and be in a completely new environment. It’s the best kind of de-stress.”

As Service Day came to an end and students reflected on the experience, some realized a day of service represents just a small part of what they can do.

Ronnebaum says, “One day devoted to service doesn’t even compare to what I owe people. It’s the least a student could do – devote a day to service.”

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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