Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Stories: Agents of Renewal - Helen Bunker

Giving with a Glad Heart

Helen Bunker at the site of the interpretive center in 2003
  • When you give to Calvin,

  • A vision for Shalom is experienced by elementary and high school students.
  • New opportunities to engage God's creation are explored and discovered.

  • Learn More »

In 1959 Helen Bunker and her late husband, Vincent, built a home in a country setting east of Grand Rapids. Three years prior to that, Calvin had purchased nearby property for the Knollcrest campus. Little did the Bunkers, or the college, know that more than 40 years later their property and adjoining acreage would become an Ecosystem Preserve and part of Calvin's Knollcrest East campus.

Helen said, "One thing just led to another," when she decided to give her property to Calvin. In addition to her home, she also provided funds for Calvin to purchase her neighbor's property—thereby presenting a significant gift of real estate to the college. This extraordinary contribution now provides educational and recreational benefits for the Calvin community and the general public as well—specifically, elementary and high school students for hands-on science programming and summer camp offerings.

Looking back on her life, Helen says she now realizes that nature and preserving the environment have always been important to her. She spent several summers at a Friends School camp in Pennsylvania and taught nature studies when she became a camp counselor. With her husband she planted gardens, celebrated the changing seasons and walked frequently in her neighborhood until the quiet roads became busy ones. Vincent Bunker enjoyed fishing—a past-time that happily immersed him in nature.

In 2003, ground was broken on an ecosystem interpretive center that provides a classroom-auditorium with seating for 60 and a wall-to-wall windowed overlook on the preserve; a classroom-laboratory for 24 students; a workroom-conference room for up to 20 volunteers; and display cases. The building, known as the Vincent and Helen Bunker Interpretive Center, was funded in part by a generous gift from Helen Bunker, with additional funding from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Helen says she is delighted that in the midst of a busy suburban environment a measure of peace and tranquility can be found in the woods, ponds and wetlands of the Ecosystem Preserve. "This was all country for many years when I lived here," she says, "and during those years Calvin was a wonderful neighbor." Now Calvin has the privilege of preserving a piece of that country.