Project Neighborhood officially began in the spring of 1998, with the move-in of 7 students with Bruce and Sue Osterink into the Koinonia House on Lake and Auburn. The planning for PN had been going on for some time, Bruce and Sue Osterink (friends of the college) began inquiring about an intentional Christian community of Calvin students as early as 1996. Chaplain Dale Cooper called together an exploratory committee to dream about it, and in the spring of 1997 a large group of people were called together for more formal brainstorming and planning.
Calvin began looking to purchase a house with funds specifically raised by Bruce Osterink and Chaplain Cooper. and begainvestigated several houses. In the fall of 1997, the house on Lake Drive was purchased from Wedgewood Christian Services, which had been using the house as a group home. Conveniently, the zoning for this home was maintained, allowing us to have up to 9 students and 2 mentors live in it. The first group of students moved into the Koinonia House in the spring of 1998.
As part of the programming of the house, Rhonda Berg developed a one-credit seminar course to accompany the program, which students were required to take. Calvin also developed a house covenant (or contract) which residents had to sign. Students looked negatively upon the contract, so Calvin turned over the work of writing a “covenant” to the residents themselves, with very few guidelines from Calvin. And the students were asked to commit 10 hours per week to service in the neighborhood.
In late 1998, First Christian Reformed Church approached Calvin about its old parsonage, which had been recently vacated. The PN committee decided to step out in faith and open a second PN house with the church, with students working in the church’s ministries for their service connection. In the summer of 1999, the church renovated the home and applied for a zoning variance to allow up to 7 students plus the mentor(s), though there haven't been more than 6 students in the house at any one time. The first group of students moved into the Harambee House in the fall of 1999. The ministry of “presence” in the neighborhood was particularly helpful and noticeable here, and the Harambee House quickly became a favorite place for neighborhood children to visit.
In 2000, Eastern Avenue CRC made a strong pitch for a PN house in their old parsonage as well. New construction at their church necessitated the house to be moved north on Eastern to an empty lot. The congregation made this decision on faith, as the costs were high. The Peniel House opened in the spring of 2001. Because of the building move, however, the house fell under more strict building code issues and is only able to accommodate 5 students plus the mentor(s).
In the fall of 2005, Creston CRC discussed a partnership between the college and the church. The church was passionate about starting up the program although had no parsonage into which to move students. A Creston CRC committee worked for the next two years to secure funding and the appropriate house. After many months Creston partnered with ICCF to assist in the funding of such a huge undertakiing. After several properties squeezed through their hands, in the spring of 2007 a house was purchased on Buffalo, adjacent to the church. After some scrambling, Noah and Megan Kruis moved into the house in the fall 2007 with three students with a variance for six students plus the mentor(s).
In the fall of 2008, Calvin was approached by Gordon Food Service who were interested in donating a family home to the Project Neighborhood program. The house was on Travis Street and had been owned by Issac Vanwestenbrugge who was passionate about community outreach in the neighborhood. After extensive renovations and meetings with the zonoing commission the house opened in the fall of 2009. Ismael and Vanessa Abrea moved into the house as the first mentors with six students.
List of participants in the Project Neighborhood program