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Calvin's StreetFest Back for 14th Year
August 29 , 2006

For the 14th straight year Calvin College first-year students will partner with the community to make a difference in Grand Rapids as part of their orientation program.

StreetFest 2006 will see 1,000 Calvin freshmen out and about on the streets of their new college's city, doing everything from planning a carnival to planting a rain garden to preparing materials for the Children's Museum.

The program takes place from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm on Thursday, August 31, Friday, September 1 and Saturday, September 2.

The theme for this year's event is "Seeking the Well-being of the City."

StreetFest student coordinator Devin Byker, a junior from Iowa, says the theme springs from Jeremiah 29 where God tells the Israelites to "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

Says Byker: ""The theme and verse were chosen because they encompass one of the paramount concerns of the Service-Learning Center at Calvin (which organizes the annual StreetFest project). As we partner and involve ourselves with agencies, organizations, and churches across Grand Rapids, we hope to take part in and further the restoration and shalom-building that Jeremiah addresses in this passage. We view our vocation as a life not of isolation, but of working towards justice in whatever community in which we may find ourselves, because, as Jeremiah notes, in its welfare, we shall have welfare."

StreetFest 2006 has added a couple of new projects to the usual collection from past years, including a walking tour of Eastown which will be less work-related and more educational.

"We chose Eastown for this tour," says Byker, "because of its long history with Calvin, from when Calvin itself was located there to the major housing haven it plays for Calvin's upperclassmen students today. The walking tour will incorporate the many noteworthy, interesting, and just plain quirky aspects of Eastown into an afternoon walking excursion around the neighborhood. We're very excited introduce our students to this historic neighborhood."

Also new for this year will be a service project at Trillium Haven farm, an organic family farm outside of Grand Rapids.

"It will be interesting to send students to Trillium Haven," says Byker, "so they can encounter an environment that most don't interact much with - agriculture. We're also eager to see how this site will bring up issues surrounding agriculture, rural living, and its relationship to urban matters."

Many of the traditional StreetFest sites are on tap again for 2006, including:

  • a cook-out at Millennium Park with residents of Heartland
  • planting rain gardens with WMEAC
  • landscaping work for the daycare Gateway to Life
  • planning a community carnival for Mosaic Life church
  • community clean-up with Neighborhood Ventures
  • surveying the Farmer's Market with Midtown Neighborhood Association
  • preparing supplies for visitors at the Grand Rapids Children Museum
  • doing yard work for local seniors at Roosevelt Park/Grandville Ave Neighborhood Association

The StreetFest day begins at 9:30 a.m. when all participants - students and mentors - gather in the Calvin chapel for a half-hour of worship. At 10 a.m. the various work teams will attend breakout sessions where they will meet their mentors and learn about the demographics and the existing resources of the neighborhoods they will be working in.

Following the actual project, the students meet to reflect and evaluate their service experience.