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Service Auctions Benefit Local Orgs
December 16, 2005

Somewhere amid the holiday rush, Calvin College residence halls held their annual service auctions, raising over $20,000 for seven Grand Rapids organizations.

Dorm residents auctioned off goods (many of them baked) and services (some of them pretty bizarre) to raise money for the organizations with which they partner throughout the year.

"It's a great tradition," says Rick Zomer, associate dean of residence life at Calvin. "The fact that a group of college students could band together and raise $20,000 for charity is pretty impressive."

  • Residents of Beets-Veenstra residence hall raised $4,300 for Horizons, a Christian Learning Center program for special needs adults.
  • Students living in the Boer-Bennink dorm raised $3,100 for the Grandville Avenue Neighborhood Library.
  • The Bolt-Heyns-Timmer auction coaxed $2,425 from its students for Kidz Klub, a math program run through Southeast Academic Center.
  • Residents of Kalsbeek-Huizenga raised $2,600 for the after-school program at Burton Heights Middle School.
  • Students from Nordewier-Vander Werp also raised $2,600 for an after-school program for kids at the Camelot Woods apartments.
  • The residents of Rooks-Van Dellen raised $2,300 for the daycare programs at Baxter Community Center.
  • And students from Schultze-Eldersveld raised $4,000 for the many after-school activities at Roosevelt Park Community Church.

The money is funneled back into the tutoring programs, gym nights and clubs where, week in and week out, the Calvin residence hall students serve.

"We are hoping to buy books and supplies to help us improve the skills of the kids we work with," says Julie Vermeer, a Bolt-Heyns-Timmer community partnership coordinator (CPC) who tutors math students at Kidz Klub. "Things such as workbooks, flashcards and manipulatives will be a huge help when trying to explain things to the kids. Right now we have to improvise and make our own flashcards and find anything we can for the kids to count with, so we are in great need of these supplies!"

The service auctions, planned by both the CPCs and residence hall leadership, were held independently of each other, but each followed the traditional pattern established in the 20-some years Calvin has been holding auctions, including a representative from each community organization who talks to the residence hall community about the partnership.

"They try to have somebody from the community partnership come so the students, especially those who don't serve throughout the week, can hear what they money will go for," Zomer says. "The Boer-Bennink students actually went down to the community partnership and shot a video of what goes on down there and showed it to the residence hall before the auction."

The auctions traditionally offer some ordinary goods: brownies or other baked goods and homemade dinners, short-term parking passes, handmade scarves, stained glass, jewelry, pillows and drawings, to name a few.

It is in the area of the service, however, that the auction offerings skew toward the creative and beyond. There are the usual dates with individuals or groups such as the "First Noordy (Noordeweier) Redheads" and services like paper editing, dance or Dutch or guitar lessons and shower cleanings. A popular auction category features special events, such as a group sail on Lake Michigan or an authentic soul food dinner for eight.

And then there are the uncategoriz-able items up for bid: a song made personally for whoever purchased it, a gift a day in someone's mailbox for the entire month of January, a 48-hour vow of silence, hugs and encouragement throughout the week of final exams ("That was a big seller!" says Kelly Post, a Beets-Veenstra CPC) or a bagpiper escort for a day.

And as is traditional, residence hall leadership offered really wacky services to juice up the bidding: They "Naired" their legs, jumped in the Seminary Pond, wrestled in concoctions of Ramen noodles and chocolate.

"This annual event is great because it raises money for a good cause, it helps tie people in the dorm into the community partnership even if they don't help out during the week and it unites the dorm toward a common goal," said Sarah Jelsema, a CPC at Schultze-Eldersveld.

The residence halls have been holding service auctions since his student days in the 90s and before, Zomer said, and he sees no end to the craziness in sight.

"More often than not, college students get in the press for something negative," he says. "I would say the service auctions are a great example of positive contributions that students are making to the community."

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson