A group of Bethel College students pose with neighbor Barbara Gale. (Photo by Christy Brink)

If history is any indicator of what the future holds, Mishawaka resident Barbara Gale knows that Bethel College students will be knocking on her door again, looking for ways to help their neighbor.

Throughout the winter months, she enjoys having her sidewalks shoveled by several Bethel students. But she especially appreciates the Saturday morning every April when dozens of volunteers disperse throughout her entire neighborhood, ready to aid residents with their spring cleaning and outdoor projects.

For the past three years, approximately 60 students and staff members have donated their time and energy to serve in the community during the annual voluntary service event “Labor for Your Neighbor.” Most spend the morning raking, gardening, pulling weeds, painting and even washing residents’ windows.

When a group of students showed up at Gale’s front door on Saturday, April 14, she knew exactly why they were there.

“The Lord has really blessed me with Bethel kids,” says Gale. “Every year they come and clean up the yard. It’s a wonderful service that offers people like me the chance to get things done that I couldn’t normally.”

Like Gale, nearly 30 other Mishawaka residents — most living within a mile radius of the college campus —have benefitted from the students’ help over the past several years.

However, for homeowners like Terry Hoffman, this was their first year taking part in the event.

“A little extra help is always good,” says Hoffman. “It’s a great asset to the community to have college students come out and help where needed. As we [neighbors] age, we aren’t always able to get the things we need done all the time, so this is great!”

The neighbors are not the only ones who benefit from the experience; the students also gain the opportunity to serve alongside and interact with fellow classmates.

Senior and resident assistant Jenny Sorgen was excited simply to have the opportunity to meet new people, build existing friendships and show the love of Jesus to individuals outside of campus.

“It is so important for our students to have an impact in our community as a whole, but it is so wonderful to see our students reaching out to those who are so nearby,” explains Janelle Crotser, director of service learning at Bethel College, who organizes the event each year.

But serving did not stop there. Following the completion of their projects, students invited their neighbors back to campus for a time of food and fellowship. And Bethel students are not the only ones who are service-minded in the area.

During the fourth annual CommUniversity Day, 650 student volunteers from Saint Mary’s College, Holy Cross College, Indiana University – South Bend, Ivy Tech and the University of Notre Dame also served the community through the completion of various painting, cleanup and gardening projects on March 31.