Students serve at Unity Gardens

Students serve at Unity Gardens

For the past 28 years, Bethel College has given back to the local community through a student-organized Service Day. This year, students and faculty donated 1,974 hours to more than 50 organizations, doing everything from serving meals and lawn and park maintenance to donation sorting, general cleaning/organization and even pet grooming!

The effects of the annual day of service ripple out into the community at organizations like the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, which helps feed six counties in the Michiana region.

“It is very important . . . without these days, we wouldn’t get our work done,” says Brandy Love, program and experience director of The Food Bank of Northern Indiana.

Unity Gardens, an organization dedicated to helping feed the hungry in our community in a wholesome and educational way, was also served. Students helped prepare the garden for the fall season. Bethel alumna Sara Stewart ’09, South Bend Unity Gardens president and executive director, was quick to express her gratitude for the impressive turnout.

“When I saw a bus pull up … and all of these students come out, I was so thrilled,” she says.

Students help prepare the ground for fall at Unity Gardens during Service Day 2016.

Students help prepare the ground for fall at Unity Gardens during Service Day 2016.

Feed the Hungry South Bend program director and recent Bethel graduate Joshua Varab ’16 was enthusiastic about his experience of Service Day from a new point of view.

“Being on the other end is neat. You get to see the impact from a different perspective,” he says. “It’s really cool to bring these kids in and let them see what’s going on here … It definitely helped us big time.”

For Bethel students, Service Day exposes them to incredible and pressing opportunities for helping others who are just outside their dorms. It breaks the exterior facades for both students and community members, and draws them into real, palpable connections. In the words of Stewart, Service Day is a testament to Bethel’s greater purpose in educating students:

“It’s not just a journey of academics or learning a base career, it’s about how you interact with the world,” she says.

The event means much more than a day of cancelled classes. Students are eager to get involved in the surrounding area, and Service Day gives them an accessible and unified outlet for such a passion.

Katie Wright ’19 was part of the student staff for Service Day 2016. She put a tremendous amount of effort into planning and organizing the event, fueled by her dedication to what Service Day stands for.

Students wash cars during Service Day 2016.

Students wash cars during Service Day 2016.

“It’s an important reminder to pause, give back and be the hands and feet of God. We’re filled up to be sent out . . . It’s giving back to the kingdom,” she says.

And students participating echoed that same enthusiasm.

“I feel like it is so powerful to go out into the community and serve together,” says Lydia Dykhouse ’18, who served at the American Cancer Society.

Erin Steele ’17 agrees.

“I think it’s a great way to get out into the community . . . and show God’s love in real and practical ways,” she says.

Service Day is truly an annual example of Bethel’s mission in action.

In the words of Bethel Sophomore Spencer French ’19, “It’s easy to go to chapel and think about these things, but to actually go out and do them — that’s pretty special.”