November 16, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

Students will have an opportunity to thank donors during Thanksgiving Week.

In the three days leading up to Thanksgiving Day, students will be writing cards. In the library lobby, in the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex lobby, in the Chapel narthex, they will be putting messages of gratitude on cards that will then be sent to Calvin donors. The effort, held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 19–21, is called Calvin Gives Back, and the idea behind it is to change the student culture of giving:

“We’re trying to show students that, yes, they do pay for their education, but there are also thousands of alumni who are supporting them,” said Eric Kamstra, the manager of special programs for the Calvin Annual Fund. “In order to create a culture that gives back, it’s important to show that there are others who are already doing so.”

Student Philanthropists

Kamstra is organizing Calvin Gives Back with the Student Philanthropy Council, a group formed earlier this year to brainstorm ways to inspire Calvin students to give back.  “A lot of us are good at giving back of our time, whether it’s at Degage Ministries or at Streetfest or a food pantry, but we’re not necessarily as good at giving back our money,” Kamstra said, adding that students’ financial contributions to Calvin traditionally take the form of a class gift, an offering at a Living Our Faith Together (LOFT) service or participation in the residence hall auctions (which benefits area nonprofits.)

Also, Kamstra said, Calvin students may be unaware of how much of their education depends on donor support. To educate their fellow students on that subject, members of the Student Philanthropy Council are putting up posters all around campus that detail some of the facts on donor philanthropy. “92% of Calvin students receive financial aid,” reads one. “$65 million is awarded yearly in grants, loans and scholarships for Calvin students,” reads another.

The poster that reads “Number of your flowers tuition dollars planted = zero/ Thank a donor” is a favorite of senior special education major Jackie Sikkema: “Everyday things around here on campus, they’re not here by accident,” said Sikkema, a member of the philanthropy council. “They’re here because someone was willing to sacrifice their time and money so that the students at Calvin could receive a good education.”

A legacy of giving

Sikkema is herself the recipient of the Van Til Family Special Education Scholarship—one of Calvin’s 700 named scholarships, established to honor specific persons and, often, to encourage students in a particular area of study. (Named scholarships are among the total 1,637 scholarships offered by the college.) “I’m very grateful for the fact that people cared so much about the school and the students …,” she said. “Because of what I’ve been given, I’ve been able to give back also.”

Students can sign cards—and add a personalized greeting—for donors on all three days of Calvin Gives Back: from 9:45 through 11 a.m. in the Chapel narthex and from 10:30 a.m. through 2 p.m. in the library lobby and the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex lobby.

It’s crucial for students to learn the practice of giving from earlier generations of donors, said Calvin Annual Fund director Rick Treur: “For Calvin to be there for their kids and grandkids, it’s their job to carry on that legacy.”

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