Linda Koslosky Vanderbaan ’69 grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, in a home with a Jewish father and non-religious mother.
Everything changed when she wandered into Trinity Christian Reformed Church and God sparked a spiritual interest.
“As I began to grow in my faith, I decidedly independently that I wanted to go to a Christian college and was looking at west coast schools,” she said. “Then, the minister at Trinity church said I should be thinking about Calvin and that he had connections there. Before I knew it, I was Calvin-bound.”
Not only did Linda make the trip as an independent 18-year-old, but so did her older sister Michale Gabriel (Susan Koslosky), who had just one more year of college left.
Vanderbaan lived at 1332 Franklin—one of the “Coops” across from the Franklin campus—with 13 other women and began her Calvin journey.
“I didn’t know about the denominational rules forbidding dancing. I didn’t even know who John Calvin was, really,” she said. “I remember [religion professor] Ted Minnema being a dear and explaining a lot of things.”
She chose an art education path and remains grateful to professors Robin Jensen, Helen Bonzelaar and Carl Huisman for becoming “her family away from home.”
In fact, Vanderbaan got a teaching job before she graduated.
“At the end of my junior year, professor Edgar Boeve said that Mayfield Christian needed an art teacher and I could do that now,” she recalled.
She loved her work and spent summers teaching art to kids in a community program on Franklin Street.
Over the next years, Vanderbaan worked a variety of jobs (many of them in art education), finished her degree and raised two children.
But a two-year assignment in the country of Jordan with what is now World Renew, the Christian Reformed Church’s world relief ministry, changed her life’s direction.
“The experiences I had in Jordan gave me a global perspective,” she said. “I had never seen poverty at such a scale. And I saw that every person can make a difference. Everyone is capable of helping and in fact, we have to help as a child of God.”
When Vanderbaan returned to U.S. and began looking for a new place to work, her interest was now bent toward those in significant need.
She became the public relations and marketing director at Goodwill Industries in Grand Rapids and is now at Feeding America West Michigan, again promoting a cause that addresses the ramifications of a broken world. The organization saves surplus food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributes it to the hungry.
Last year, over 27 million tons of food was put to this good use.
“One in five kids and one in seven adults in our region do not know where their next meal is coming from,” she said. “We can’t let that stand. Talk is great, but we need some action.”
She is also thrilled with the ways in which Calvin has intersected her life and work over the years. This September, a student StreetFest team helped promote World Hunger Month.
“And I have three tremendous Calvin alumni colleagues at Feeding America,” she said. “Andrew Steiner [‘11] and Charis Brown [’15] are my story-telling partners and Ron Groen [‘77] is our amazing food sourcer. My goal as I retire is for Charis to fill my role.”
Helping others has become Vanderbaan’s passion and she has a reputation for showing her gratitude in dramatic ways.
“Yes, I’ve been known to kiss an eggplant as another shipment of gorgeous fresh vegetables comes in,” said Vanderbaan. “I’ve become profoundly grateful of God’s grace, and for the small things in life.”