Alum finds giving back to Calvin rewardingDuring my senior year I was asked to give money to Calvin’s Annual Fund. And my life hasn’t been the same since. OK, maybe that seems a bit overdramatic, but that’s definitely the truth. My senior year I had the privilege to serve as Student Senate president — a position that brought me into close contact with a number of Calvin staff members from various departments across campus. One such staff member is Norm Zylstra. That year was Zylstra’s first as “Coordinator of Student and Young Alumni Programs,” and since, in a sense, neither of us had the best idea of what our positions fully entailed, we worked in conjunction on quite a few projects. One such project was “student giving.” One day, while having lunch in Knollcrest and enjoying my fresh Ronlette, the topic of giving money back to Calvin came to my attention for the first time. I don’t remember clearly if it was on that occasion or during another similar situation, but in one of these discussions I was asked, “Ben, are you going to give back to Calvin?” At that moment, the question seemed a little absurd (because I had been giving money to Calvin these past four years, right?), but I think I still responded, probably rather coyly, “Sure.” We discussed that issue for a bit that day, and it was the first time that I truly drew a distinction between the tuition money I had already spent (given in exchange for a service) and the money I could give (given because I wanted to and believed in what Calvin was doing). After our discussion, I still hadn’t fully decided to give, but that first question really started the wheels turning. Would I actually give money back to Calvin? Was it truly that important? It was only after pursuing this issue and learning more throughout that whole year that I did decide, at the time the question was really asked, that I would make a donation. During that year I learned about one main avenue for donating money: the Calvin Annual Fund. This fund supports the daily operating budget of the college. This means that when 1st VanderWerp needs a new light because the boys have been playing one too many sports in the hallway, the cost of the bulb will likely come out of this fund. This fund covers those kinds of costs — smaller maintenance expenses — and it also supports each department on campus, funding programs, lectures, faculty salaries and much more. So, through all of these ways, the Annual Fund doesn’t just cover the costs of things around campus. Without these annual gifts — and other non-tuition sources of revenue, such as grants — the cost of attending Calvin would be much higher. In other words, the Annual Fund underwrites the cost of attending Calvin for each and every student. Contrary to what so many of us may believe or think, the “external price tag” that students see on their “Tuition, Room and Board” statements is not the final, real-dollar cost of attending Calvin. Thanks in part to the Annual Fund, each student pays about 75 percent of the actual cost of attending Calvin. This is the importance of Calvin’s Annual Fund to me. Last year about 12,000 people donated to the fund. These people showed that they believe in what Calvin’s doing for all of us each and every day. They also give back because they understand that when they attended Calvin, there were others who had supported them in a similar manner. Beyond these two ways that the Annual Fund makes a daily impact, there’s one final aspect of the fund that I want to highlight right now — the Community Care Fund. The Community Care Fund is a microcosm of the Annual Fund. Students can donate money directly to it, and it meets the specific needs of Calvin students each year. It exists for emergency situations in which a student has a pressing and immediate need for money to cover a cost. The critical, most important part to know about the Community Care Fund, though, is that it is student-supported. Each year when seniors are first asked to donate money back to Calvin, their donation goes directly to this fund, and that’s the only money that goes there. Whatever money a senior class gives to the Fund, whether that be $5 or $500 or $1000, is all the money available to help students the following year. As I hope you can see, this is one area in which our donations make a huge, direct impact on the lives of some students around us or, perhaps, the students following in our footsteps. So as this year comes to a close, I wish to offer some encouragement to all of you. To those of you graduating this year, I encourage you to lead the way for the students to come. Give back because you’ve already received so much. To those of you who may still have a year or two or three (or four or five, I guess ... although I hope it won’t take you nearly that long), I encourage you to think through this decision, so that when you are asked, “Will you give back to Calvin?” you will be able to make an informed choice. Hopefully, all of us will be good stewards of the money we earn — whether a lot or a little — and choose causes that we feel called to support. Calvin can be — and for me, is — one of those causes because I see how this place contributes to building God’s Kingdom.