Often they started showing up because someone told them they had to. They had to pick a place to volunteer as an athletic team. They had to get a certain number of volunteer hours to graduate. Or they had to climb on the bus that day, get dropped off wherever their group and leader were taking them. Not always a lot of choices there.
But the incredible story lies in the fact that just being there, volunteering their youthful time and talents in a place and need somewhere in their community, often changes hearts and voices, opens eyes and doors, broadens horizons that our HCS students didn’t even know could be there. That’s one reason among many why Holland Christian requires volunteer hours, mandates spending time and services in our community, from preschool through 12th grade.
Last May for 8th Grade Service Day, HCMS Language Arts teacher Lisa Lundy had an interesting mix of 8th grade students to take to Benjamin’s Hope—a group that probably never hung out together, and here she was supposed to make them weed minuscule blueberry bushes, shovel llama manure, and haul hay. All on a warm May day, when everyone had summer vacation fever, and didn’t necessarily want to be there, much less scoop the poop?
But Lisa recalls it as a magical time, where “Jesus was with us,” she said. “That day in the blueberry bushes, we witnessed kids opening up in ways they hadn’t before, vulnerable ways, all while digging weeds, and supporting each other, being open in new ways. Our hope is each student has the chance to realize the life-giving act of serving, and the community that is created when we serve together.”
Our hope is each student has the chance to realize the life-giving act of serving, and the community that is created when we serve together.
A few years ago, when Pine Ridge was reviewing the Holland Christian Discipleship practices, they came to the “Servant Living” practices, and “realized that ‘Servant Living’ isn’t just a talk about—it’s a do,” Pine Ridge 6th grade teacher Katie Boer said. So they contacted several different non-profit organizations in the area that kids from Pine Ridge could help, and visit with their school-wide small groups throughout the year.
When they volunteer, Pine Ridge kids fill upwards of 700 bags of Chex Mix for Kids Food Basket, pull weeds at 8th Day Farm, break down boxes and restock pantries at the Community Action House. “These organizations do this every day, and we’re peeking in at what they do,” Katie said. Each year, Pine Ridge is committed to going back to these same organizations, and sometimes kids go back with their families on weekends or during the summer. “Servant living is not just going once, it’s sustaining that relationship,” Katie said. “It’s what Jesus calls us to do—walking alongside another person is how He lived His life.”
Besides running the Little Maroons girls program, the girls varsity basketball team chooses an organization outside HCS to volunteer at as well, and for the last two years served a few “team” dinners at Compassionate Heart: “I know, I require a lot—but it keeps them out of trouble!” laughed girls varsity coach Heather Swierenga ’06. “Basketball is a platform to serve not just ourselves, but our community! It’s an opportunity to think beyond ourselves and use our community as a basketball team to connect with a different team and community, for us both to benefit.”
HCHS students are required to volunteer 10 hours outside of school functions each year, accumulating a minimum of 40 volunteer hours to graduate. A few struggle with it, honestly. Others wipe out the full year’s worth with a mission trip through church, or helping to lead VBS somewhere, maybe helping run HCS’s summer camps. But then some go on to volunteer more on their own. Take Levi Smith ’19, for example: Even though he’s accumulated the mandatory hours long ago, every Tuesday from 3-8 pm he volunteers at Compassionate Heart Ministries in Zeeland, hanging out with the people there, playing basketball or serving supper with them. “I just like the way they treat me— they always love you for being you,” he said. “You can always be yourself. Every time you come back, it’s like you’ve been gone for years, and they’re so excited to see you.”