December 13, 2011 | Andrew Steiner
Throughout November and early December, students have been participating in a decades-old tradition of smashing whipped cream pies into the faces of their peers.
About a hundred residents of Kalsbeek-Huizenga-van Reken gathered in the lobby on the night of Dec. 1 to bid on a host of offerings—baked cookies, knitwear, singing lessons—in the annual Service Auction, an event organized by each hall. The proceeds were dedicated to Supper House, a restaurant-style food assistance program at St. Alphonsus Parish and KHvR’s dorm partner. (The pies served as extra encouragement, bestowed on students and residence life staff as the donated sum passed certain benchmarks.)
Each of Calvin’s residence halls teams up with an organization in Grand Rapids to give students an opportunity to learn from and serve members of the community they might not otherwise encounter.
“I think it’s a really good experience for people to get out of this little Calvin bubble,” said Katharine Raybaud, a sophomore community partnership coordinator in KHvR. “A lot of people at Supper House have very different lives than we have at Calvin.”
Raybaud and fellow coordinator sophomore Ellen Hoeksema bring four to eight students to Supper House on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the semester.
Dorm partnerships like this one became an institution of campus life nearly 20 years ago. Before then, said Noah Kruis, associate director of Calvin’s service-learning center, dorm leaders chose a different organization to fund each year. The partnerships were intended to forge more invested relationships, and the service auctions provided a way for students to show their appreciation for those relationships, Kruis said:
“Right now, especially in times when government funding for programs and services provided in our communities is being cut back, there’s a need that’s greater than it has been in the past, so there’s a need to give back in creative ways, there’s a need for people to be generous.”
An old-fashioned lamp post had been raised in the middle of the crowded KHvR lobby. A Christmas tree stood in one corner, and carols played from a boom-box at the front desk. Resident director Laura Rodeheaver introduced the night’s guest: Michelle Ford, founder and director of Supper House.
“I’m so excited to be here,” Ford said. “Last year was a blast. I didn’t leave till midnight.”
Ford explained that the night’s donations would fund a Christmas party for the guests of Supper House, providing gifts for the kids and gift cards for their parents.
With that, the bidding began. Students vied for homemade crafts, cleaning services and a bedtime story in Latin. Daniel Camacho, resident assistant on second van Reken, offered an ambush serenade from his mariachi band. Another student, Zachary Willis, was put up for a double-date despite being in Texas with the soccer team for the NCAA D-III championship—a set-up, it was revealed, by his girlfriend.
Watching the pageantry unfold, Ford expressed her gratitude for the Calvin students who, even though the dorm partnership was only formalized last year, have been part of Supper House from the beginning. More than serving food, Ford said, Calvin students are “willing to interact with the guests and with the church staff. Calvin students, I think, have really helped build people’s self-esteem and helped them feel very welcome.”
By the end of the night, KHvR had gone $100 over their original goal, sending $2,600 to Supper House and earning themselves some extra open house hours in the process.
While another year of auctions is now concluded, students have begun redeeming their services. On Wednesday morning, sophomore Barnabas Andrew Gelderloos sat down at his group’s lab bench in biology class wearing a pink poodle suit.
Gelderloos had put himself up for bid at Schultze-Eldersveld’s service auction. Inspired by last year’s auction, Gelderloos decided to allow the winning bidders to choose what costume he would wear around campus for a day. Somehow, that time period had been extended to a week. “All I know is it blocks my eyes when I put my hood on,” Gelderloos said of the borrowed costume.
The price of his “service” will benefit Roosevelt CRC, where SE students teach literacy and English as a second language. “I really like the church, and I think they really benefit from the donations that we make,” Gelderloos said. “I just felt like I had to do something.”
Would he volunteer his services again, given the chance? “Yes,” Gelderloos said, “but I would reword it.”
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