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Nov. 4, 2004

Calvin Earns Good Neighbor Award

Three year's worth of work by Calvin College in the Burton Heights neighborhood in Grand Rapids is being recognized by the Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association (GPNA) which will present the college with a "Good Neighbor" award at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 15 at its annual meeting at Alternative Directions.

Carol Rienstra, Calvin's director of community relations, will accept the award for the college.

Calvin began its work in Burton Heights - a neighborhood that falls within the GPNA's borders - in 2001 via the Calvin@BurtonHeights partnership, an effort funded by a three-year, $399,949 HUD Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) grant.

The partnership allowed students, faculty and staff from several Calvin departments to work in Burton Heights clinics, homes, schools, businesses and other organizations. Those efforts are being recognized by the GPNA which gives Good Neighbor awards annually in five categories.

While honoring Calvin's past efforts in Burton Heights, "the award committee also recognizes Calvin's continued commitment to working in the neighborhood," says Sue DeVries, the executive director of the GPNA.

Calvin's Rienstra says good things are happening in Burton Heights.

"The essence of what is going on in Burton Heights," she says, "is that nursing, social work, Spanish, business and education faculty, along with many Calvin students and staff, have benefitted from working and studying in the neighborhood. Being a good neighbor is easy when you're in a community where people reciprocate with neighborliness. Calvin folks and Garfield Park neighbors are growing and learning together."

The college's work in Burton Heights has spanned a wide variety of settings over the past three years. Calvin nursing students have given flu shots and performed blood pressure checks, a Calvin urban geography class tackled issues of traffic calming and walk-ability in the Burton Heights neighborhood, a Calvin business class created business and marketing plans with Burton Heights entrepreneurs and, this past September, during StreetFest, incoming students had the unique job of etching car windows with identification numbers in a neighborhood-wide theft prevention effort.

And while the original COPC grant to Calvin has now expired the college commitment to the neighborhood has not.

In fact, Calvin is pioneering some new projects, including "Spanish for Neighbors," a class for non-Hispanic residents of the area that is taught by a Calvin senior.

~words by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson

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