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Calvin Readies for Streetfest 2007
August 21 , 2007

When 1,045 incoming students arrive on the Calvin College campus next week, they will take part in an orientation tradition that has them serving and learning at sites all over the Grand Rapids area.

Streetfest 2007 will take place August 30 to September 1. The event, now in its 15th year, is a Calvin student’s first introduction to service-learning, an acquaintance that organizers hope will last a lifetime.

“It’s not a day about volunteerism and it’s not a mini-missions trip. It’s a totally different breed of service,” junior Laura Wolff, a Streetfest co-leader says about the event. “Students get outside the college and learn that they have just as much to gain from people in the community as they have to offer them.”

Over the three days of Streetfest, teams of incoming students will work alongside over 60 Grand Rapids nonprofit organizations.

“We want to emphasize that God is already working in this community, and one way to see that is to see many different agencies,” says sophomore and Streetfest co-leader Elise Ditta.

Student teams will assemble food bags at Meals on Wheels, host a rummage sale for Project Rehab and clean alleys in the Madison Ave. neighborhood among other chores. More importantly, they will listen as leaders of these organizations explain their missions and services.

This year’s Streetfest theme, “Revive. Renew. Restore,” was inspired by a recycling logo she spotted on a t-shirt, Wolff says. Organizers applied the familiar recycling arrow, now featured on the Streetfest t-shirt, to the larger theme of renewing the community.

They also applied the theme to the Streetfest job roster.

“What was cool about this year is we picked this more environmental theme and then came up with all of these green activities,” says Wolff. In the service of environmental sustainability, students will plant a rain garden at Pilgrim Manor Retirement Community with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC). Others will remove drywall to upgrade the insulation at Steepletown Ministries—helping that organization to reach its goals to go “green.”

The recycling theme even extends to the Streetfest urban bike tours, organized by physical education professor Don DeGraff. For three years, DeGraff has led Streetfest teams on a 20-mile bike tour of the city with nonprofit agencies as the points of interest. This year, the urban cyclers will ride on recycled bikes—bicycles abandoned around campus and collected by the Calvin Campus Safety Department.

“They go to Physical plant and just sit there,” Wolff explains. “We think it’s cool that we can recycle these bikes from year to year.” (“If people re-claim their bikes, we will give them back to them,” Ditta hastens to add.)

Streetfest is also recycling its popular walking tours of the Creston and Eastown neighborhoods again this year. Each tour is led by a Calvin staff or faculty member who points out the nonprofit agencies in the area.

Both student organizers say that Streetfest was a crucial event in their Calvin careers, and they hope it will be the same for this year’s crop of students.

“For some students it’s just a day in the hot sun and nothing more,” says Ditta. “For other students it can be a really eye-opening, edifying experience.”

Wolff agrees: “It’s important to realize that the world is bigger than you.”

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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