At the same time nearly a thousand first-year Calvin students were serving in the greater Grand Rapids area for the annual StreetFest endeavor, alumni were doing the same in the neighborhoods where they live.
StreetFest International is a new program of the Calvin Alumni Association, intended to identify projects “that would deepen partnerships within the larger community of God’s kingdom and in turn increase awareness that our alma mater cares about service and learning together,” said Jon Kuyers ’89, president of the association.
This September, Grand Rapids-area alumni continued to serve as mentors and supporters of the first-year students who ventured into every corner of the region, but in addition, six other alumni groups—from Seattle to Boston—mirrored the service learning going on near the campus.
In Cleveland, alumni worked with MedWish International’s northeast Ohio affiliate, sorting and packaging medical supplies to be shipped overseas. “It’s really great that Calvin students and alumni are doing StreetFest together,” said Beverly Fleming ’66, an alumna who participated in the Cleveland project.
Ma Shonn Sullivan ’94, who organized the experience, said: “What an awesome day of service and time of reconnecting as alumni.”
In Seattle, alumni had no idea they’d spend a lot of time with watermelons.
Alumni there repackaged food, did quality checking and organized goods for distribution at the Food Lifeline food bank in Shoreline, Wash. Alums joined with other volunteer groups that day and handled 31,000 pounds of watermelon.
That was “phenomenal,” according to the Food Lifeline warehouse manager—and the fastest he’s ever seen, said Christy Anderson ’92, a participant.
Central Iowa alums worked on trail maintenance at the Big Rock Community Park. Boston grads assisted More Than Words Café. Portland alumni assisted at Medical Teams International, and a group in Bradenton, Fla., served a total of 52 hours at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Tallevast, Fla.
At all the sites, there was learning to go with the service, as is Calvin’s tradition.
“We learned a lot of history about [Big Rock Park], and a guide taught us about the native species of the area,” said Mindi Andringa Vandenbosch ’00, a co-organizerof the Iowa site with Jess Craver Kanis ’00.
Back in Grand Rapids, alumni not only traveled to and served with students, some took action that especially enriched the service-learning activity.
At a homeless shelter, a group of students spent the day clearing what was meant to be a beautiful perennial garden for residents to enjoy but had become mostly weeds. Students lamented that the weeds would return without a donation of plants to fill in the garden.
Alumna Mary Vanderveen Romence ’65, owner of Romence Gardens, graciously donated 19 plants to help fulfill the dream of a garden where homeless shelter residents can find an oasis of greenery and flowers.
Alumni association leaders are pleased with this first organized effort to match alumni and student service-learning experiences. Plans call for another effort in September 2012.