His business card could read, “Professor Emeritus, Calvin College” (36 years) or “Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Recreation Center” (44 years). Instead it says: “David B. Tuuk, Special Volunteer.”
Just how special became public last May when the Child and Family Resource Council of Kent County presented Dave Tuuk ’49 with its Booker T. Washington Volunteer Award for his 18 years of steadfast, insistent and often invisible service to Safe Haven Ministries.
And it is a serious, daily business for Tuuk, seeing to the needs of Safe Haven, which provides refuge and support for abused women and their children. It started when Tuuk—a member of one of six Grand Rapids churches that founded the ministry and an all-around handyman—was asked to help remodel the kitchen in Safe Haven’s first shelter. Then, he said, “one thing led to another” on the house’s long fix-it list.
Besides his handyman skills, Tuuk also, from the start, put into Safe Haven’s service another prodigious gift. “Around here we call him ‘The Master of Getting Things for Free,’” said Safe Haven’s present director, Kylene Dalton-Koons.
Building materials, furniture, electronics, toys, services of all kinds—for all of these and more Dave Tuuk has “a contact.”
“Well, see, I know a lot of people from way back—and they can help,” Tuuk said.
He means 36 years-full of students who passed through his Calvin phys ed classes and athletic teams, not to mention his own classmates, neighbors and church members—people he also called on to help him turn a 60-acre farm into the Christian Reformed Recreation Center with its eight softball fields, picnic area and 18-hole golf course.
The Rec Center’s current director, Jim Timmer, Sr., who is one of Tuuk’s former student-athletes, says of his coach, “He has a great ability to make people feel good about giving. He makes them feel they have some ownership of the ministry.”
So it was that in the summer of 2006, when Safe Haven purchased a larger but dilapidated facility for a new shelter, Tuuk surveyed the needs and went to his contacts: a general contractor and his subcontractors who remade the space into a beautiful place for some $100,000 less than the market rate.
A year later, when it was finished, Tuuk looked around and saw one essential thing missing. “In the worst way I wanted a play area for the kids, one that was fenced in, to keep the animals out.”
In classic Tuuk style, he set about the job himself first: spraying weeds, digging brush, clearing the site. Then he went to his contacts. “That’s the thing,” Timmer added, “everybody knows he’d do it all himself if he could.”
By the spring of 2008, children at the shelter were swinging, sliding, riding bikes and playing in playhouses surrounded by a top-grade vinyl-coated fence, most of it donated.
“Because of Dave, the women and children who walk through our doors experience a little piece of heaven in the middle of their difficult circumstances,” Dalton-Koons said.
“Well, it’s so satisfying to know you’re helping people,” Tuuk responded. “I’m 82, and I don’t know how many years I’ve got left. Every day when I get up I want to live that verse from Ephesians that says, ‘Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men or women.’”
Giving to Calvin
Majors & Minors
People at Calvin