May 27, 2014 | Matt Kucinski

Charlie Huizinga (left) nominated Geoff Van Berkel (right) for the award.


That’s what Geoff Van Berkel and his Calvin College physical plant colleagues felt when they found out the reason for the meeting that was called by their director Phil Beezhold on Tuesday, May 7.

“Nobody knew what the meeting was about,” said Van Berkel.

And then the relief was replaced with embarrassment, when Van Berkel realized the meetings’ focus had turned to him.

“I don’t do it for this,” he added.

John and Amanda, the morning co-hosts of WCSG—a Grand Rapids-based Christian radio station—walked into the meeting with VanBerkel’s wife Judy and their five children. They then presented Van Berkel with the station’s “Hometown Hero” award—an honor bestowed upon one member of the west Michigan community each week, someone who is “the ordinary extraordinary and who deserves recognition for making others’ lives better.”

“Geoff is one of the hardest working guys I know,” said Beezhold, the director of Calvin’s physical plant. “He’s very dedicated to the athletic fields and making the turf look great.”

At Calvin, Van Berkel skillfully manages the campus turf areas and athletic fields, irrigation system and oversees the purchase and maintenance of equipment in the grounds department.

“His dedication extends beyond simply maintaining his good habits,” wrote Charlie Huizenga, Van Berkel’s direct supervisor, in his nomination letter to WCSG. “He uses opportunities in his daily work to show interest in the lives of the people he encounters. In all his interactions Geoff not only displays a mastery in his field, but also the grace and servant-like attitude of one who loves his God.”

And Van Berkel’s impact goes well beyond the grounds and people at Calvin College. He’s the chairman of the board of H.I.S. (Haitian Interdenominational Shelter) Home for Children and has led the Michigan group of the H.I.S. Home 300 bicycle marathon fundraiser for the past four years. He is currently fundraising for this year's ride. The fundraiser usually brings in enough to pay the annual rent for all four of the organization’s houses in Port au Prince, Haiti.

“Geoff has been a wonderful addition to our Board of Directors and has brought a large amount of professionalism to the Board,” wrote Harold Nungester, who co-founded H.I.S. Home with his wife Christine and now serves as the organization’s president. “He is a wonderful inspiration to this ministry and we are very pleased that he has been nominated for this award!”

Van Berkel has adopted two children (Daphna and Grace) through H.I.S. Home and he and his wife are in the process of adopting two siblings in their early teens.

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