The Official Student Newspaper of Calvin College Since 1907
April 3, 2009
Volume 103, Issue 24
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Funds target student needs

Seniors graduating this spring may be asked as future alumni to give money to a few little known funds: the Community Care Fund and the Nyela Turaki memorial fund. Although these funds have until this point received little publicity, they have been in existence for several years — the community care fund for almost two decades — to help students faced with unexpected situations which require funds beyond their capacity.

The Community Care Fund and the Nyela Turaki Fund are run by Knights for Life (K4L), an organization for young alumni that tries to get former students involved both in campus activities and in fundraising right out of college.

“It’s all student generated,” explained K4L intern Sarah Frank. “We want students to get in the habit of giving, and charity is a great way to start. Through these funds someone you never met, or maybe just shared some philosophy class with, can be helped and blessed.” These funds serve the double purpose of aiding students in need and in building future alumni community.

The community care fund has its origins in the late eighties. Marcia Beare (Visser), a 1990 graduate of Calvin college was a student in Dale Cooper’s 8 a.m. religion class.

“She is one of the most remarkable women I have ever encountered,” said Cooper. “She had this bright effervescent smile and a larger-than-life personality. Everybody knew Marcia.”

Marcia was blind, but according to Cooper she navigated her way around campus with ease.

“I once asked her, ‘Marcia, how do you get around so easily?’” said Cooper. “And she said to me ‘Coop, it’s kinda like I’ve got eyes in my feet.’”

Marcia’s seeing-eye dog was a golden retriever named Sebastian.

“That dog was smart,” said Cooper.

One day a car violated a red light when Marcia was crossing Burton. Sebastian was hit and ended up in an animal hospital.

“This is where my tiny role in this story came in,” said Cooper. “I wondered, ‘What’s the best way for us as a community to respond?’”

Wanting to let the Calvin community answer that question, Cooper sent a letter around to the departments and housing asking for response to the community need. The response was overwhelming.

“We raised 2,500 bucks,” said Cooper. “That’s a lot of money in the 80s!”

Sebastian’s injuries were not as extensive as originally feared, and he was taken care of with less money than was raised. Marcia was able to use some money to buy a new harness for him, but she didn’t want any of the extra money beyond that.

“She said ‘it isn’t mine anyway; it belongs to the community,’” said Cooper.

The money that was not used went towards what is now the community care fund. It has remained an open fund that anyone can add to and can be used at any time if a need arises.

“My understanding is that it is designed to respond to occasional needs,” said Cooper, “when a student faces a situation which is more than she can handle. It is something like water pipes under the street. It provides a vital service, but is not drawn attention to.”

According to Cooper, it has been a blessing both to givers and receivers in the years since.

“This is just one of the ways we live out the words of Jesus: encourage one another, build each other up,” said Cooper.

The Nyela Turaki memorial fund was established in 2004 as a branch off of the community care fund for Calvin’s international students. Nyela Turaki was a Calvin student from Nigeria who passed away unexpectedly in June of 2004 due to a brain hemorrhage.

These funds allow alumni to give directly to students rather than to the school infrastructure. “This money doesn’t just insulate the Fieldhouse,”

Frank observed. “It’s student money raised by students to help students.”

K4L sees the funds as an expansion of Calvin College’s dedication to service strongly represented by its academic and student services. Both funds serve obvious gaps in the system: crisis financial aid for both local and international students.

Originally only departing seniors were asked to contribute to the community care fund and the Nyela Turaki memorial fund. This year K4L is trying to step up publicity for the funds in order to raise greater funds and awareness of the program for students in need of its services. The program is now open for donations from the entire student body, and along with advertising, mail and e-mail, will also hold a phonathon next month.

Frank believes this expansion could radically increase the fund’s size. “Last year the number of contributors raised from 58 to 152. People will give money if they know about it; they just don’t know about it. So why not 300 students? So double again? 100 percent increase. If a 1,000 people gave up a $5 foot long at Subway or an expensive coffee drink at Starbucks, that’s $5,000 right there.”

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