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News & Stories: 2009-10

When students need it
February 19, 2010

In 1990 Marcia Visser, a visually impaired Calvin sophomore, was crossing East Beltline Ave. when a car struck her seeing-eye dog, Sebastian. The dog suffered major damage to his heart and lungs, and Visser—now Marcia Beare—didn’t have the money to pay for his medical expenses. Dale Cooper, then-college chaplain, appealed to the Calvin community to help out, and the money poured in. Sebastian had surgery and recovered. “If something like this had to happen, I’m glad I was at Calvin because I doubt they would have come around me in support at another college,” said Beare recently. “Calvin just has a really special atmosphere about it.” 

A small pot

Students walking across campusThat 1990 incident inspired the Community Care Fund, described by vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra as “that small pot of money that reacts or responds to the acts or events in students’ lives. These are the kinds of things you can’t plan on, but they often feel very serious or overwhelming,” she said. The Community Care Fund pays for a student’s plane ticket when there’s a death in the family. The fund pays for gasoline, housing or other expenses for the visiting families of students in medical or other emergencies. The fund can be used to pay for anything from oral surgery to the aftermath of an apartment fire.

Requests to the fund typically come from faculty and staff members on the students’ behalf, and Hoogstra approves them. “It’s simple, and that’s what I love about it,” she said. “You don’t need a committee.” All disbursements are confidential." Some of our students actually take the money as a loan, knowing they can pay it back once they’re employed—thereby replenishing the widow’s oil for the next need,” Hoogstra said. "It’s kind of like a deacon thing. You give it out, and it comes back to you.”

Students supporting students

The student life department has managed the Community Care Fund since its creation. More recently, the fund has gained some partners. “Development became involved with it maybe three or four years ago, when we were told by students that these kinds of capital projects (senior gifts), like a bike rack or a bench or a sign, weren’t that meaningful to them,” said Chris Ellens, the Calvin fund manager on the Calvin Annual Fund staff. In 2005, the Community Care Fund became a component of the annual fund, and Allens has provided fund-raising support through mailings, e-mailings and phone calls: “Over the years, we’ve seen … students make several gifts to the Community Care Fund after hearing the stories of what it does at Calvin,” he said. “It’s really fun to … see students invest themselves in the Calvin community.”

Senate comes aboard

Students outside chapelThe Community Care Fund has also found a partner in Calvin’s student senate, which this year has adopted the fund as an initiative, said senate president Ben Shoemaker: “I’m really impressed or pleased that Calvin is putting so much effort and energy into this, when they really could be putting effort into other development projects,” he said. “They’re putting effort into supporting students.” Working with development, Shoemaker has sent out e-mails and other mailings, asking the Calvin community to support the Community Care Fund: “I’m asking students to come alongside,” he said.

The original benefactor of the Community Care Fund is pleased. Beare, who graduated Calvin in 1990, plans to return this fall to earn a second bachelors degree and move on to medical school. “Sometimes God uses the most interesting things to work through,” she said. “Even in the most painful situations, he can do something good.”

~By Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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