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There is a serious problem with this article…

In order to fit every single HC volunteer and everything they do into one article, we would need 100 pages, or at least all 32 of this magazine. But we didn’t realize the extent of this problem until we were well into the planning, interviewing, and investigating phase, discovering the sheer number—and high quality—of volunteers who keep Holland Christian alive and well.

Unfortunately we didn’t plan for 100 pages, or even all 32 pages. So we are left with a paltry bit of space to do justice to so many who give so much to Holland Christian on a daily basis.

But we also met amazing people and heard wonderful tales about Holland Christian volunteers so it’s worth at least sharing the tip of the iceberg. We have volunteers in almost every aspect of our school—from finances (thank you ditto), to leadership (thank you Board of Trustees), to landscaping (thanks, John Wood), classroom assistants, libraries, athletics, extracurriculars, parent organizations, and high school winter dances. And we were struck not just with the fact that all these people are at Holland Christian regularly giving their time and talents for HC students and staff, but especially with the sheer quality of their giving and talents. People with degrees and experience who could so easily take their time elsewhere to earn both money and greater recognition. But instead donate it to us. We are so amazed—and so grateful!

There are several programs and opportunities that would be either nonexistent or lower quality without our volunteers. Take our elementary libraries, for example:

We have almost 20 regular volunteers in the three HC elementary libraries, all keeping the elementary libraries afloat since our one elementary librarian, Mary Hofman, hasn’t figured out yet how to be in three places at once.

“There are some retired teachers who have been lifesavers,” Mary said. “I can hardly pick one person, but one who is currently saving my sanity and has probably been involved the longest is Mary Harkema ’69, former Pine Ridge 5th grade teacher, who practically runs the South Side library as an unpaid volunteer, and who prepares new books for circulation for all the elementary libraries.”

There’s also Arlene Dannenberg, who retired from banking, and who has reshelved books in the library at Rose Park for “YEARS!” according to Mary. “This is a big job and Arlene does it faithfully, accurately, and cheerfully.”

Arlene started working in the Rose Park library when her grandkids were at Rose Park, and she simply kept going and going, reshelving several cartloads of books every Thursday, sometimes into Friday morning, even after her grandkids moved on to HCMS and HCHS.

“I’m not going to sit home and get old!” Arlene said. “I just tell people to volunteer, find your niche, everybody needs help—and when you don’t need money, you can do it for free! And I didn’t even know books or anything. I’ve just learned so much—the kids are so helpful!”

Pat Befus, a former teacher and school librarian in Costa Rica and Texas, doesn’t even have any grandkids or previous connections with HC. When she and her husband retired in Holland a few years ago after a lifetime of missions all over South America and in America, she was looking for someplace to plug in.

“I prayed!” she said. “During my quiet time, this school came up. It’s a mile from my house, and I offered to help with reading because I taught reading before, but my librarian background was what they needed the most.”

Katie Dryer does help with reading on a volunteer basis at South Side, where her youngest started this year. Their family moved to Holland from Illinois last summer because they wanted to be closer to West Michigan family, but in her previous life before kids and Holland, Katie was an elementary teacher and a reading specialist.

“I love nothing more than teaching kids how to read—it is my passion in life!” Katie said, adding that not only did she want to see what South Side was like from the inside and be a part of her son’s world there, but also that it was a good way to meet people—the staff at South Side as well as parents. Two mornings a week Katie pulls small groups of mostly second graders to practice reading skills and help them “move up that [reading] mountain. I do the lessons, and I love it!”

There are other regular volunteers in Holland Christian’s elementary schools, people under the radar, but who fill important niches: Nancy Mulder plays piano at South Side for praise and worship, for chapels and special events. Yvonne Bengelink has volunteered in the junior kindergarten classroom for years working on reading and math skills in small groups with students. Jamie Lanser ’85 reads with students in the library regularly. Sandy Stielstra packs reading level books for South Side first graders twice a week so they can practice reading at home, and then reads it one more time with students back at school. “Students are always excited to get to read their book to Mrs. Stielstra to show off their reading,” South Side principal Christy Haig commented. “It is fun for them to have someone other than their teacher or parent to read to!”

“And there are so many more that randomly help for lunch breaks, field trips, and all kinds of random things,” added Katie VanFaasen, secretary at Rose Park. “It’s truly a blessing and enables the teachers to do some amazing things!”

Last fall fifth grade Forest School teacher Chris DeZwaan ’88 needed an extra set of hands to go off site for a water testing outing, and asked at family Sunday dinner if anyone wanted to help. Her dad, Lean Koops ’63 jumped on it: “I think he liked the idea of it being outside, and he just really loves kids, and he likes to do those kinds of service things at Holland Christian. I just love that about him,” Chris said, adding that her dad has also built bookcases for Pine Ridge, and frequently helps out wherever needed at HC. Her students find it especially delightful to see their teacher interacting with her dad: “I tell them that the only person who trumps the teacher [in the classroom] is the teacher’s dad—they get a kick out of that!”

Then there are all the parents who are on parent boards at each HC campus, groups who meet regularly to plan and organize the Walkathon fundraiser, organize meals at parent-teacher conferences, encourage and support staff with Christmas gifts, classroom supplies, and treats. Even plan school events and outings like Forest School’s night hikes, and Rose Park’s Family Nights.

“The core of Parent Board is supporting the teachers, and showing them how much we appreciate them,” said Peggy Gorno, who has been on parent boards at South Side, Pine Ridge, HCMS, and is now helping to start one at the high school. “In the younger years it was doing the Walkathon, filling the principal’s needs, celebrating the kids and making sure they have fun activities. In the middle school it was more about leadership and meeting new families, and at the high school we’re focusing on the staff—it’s really about bringing joy. In some small way letting them know how much we appreciate them, honoring what they give.”

“They’re with our kids more than we are sometimes!” Peggy added. “They have such an impact on their lives, so it’s one small way I can give back!”

Kerri deVries ’96 joined the HCMS Parent Board when her youngest was in middle school, once she had more time. “What I love about the parent team is you don’t have to do every single thing yourself—you just pick up when the time works in your life,” Kerri said. She also is working to bring the parent board into the high school on a more official basis, cleaning the teachers’ lounge, bringing in snacks more regularly. “The teachers need to be doted on—they’re doting on our kids, so it’s important they get some appreciation!”

Kerri also helps with the senior graduation party, a committed group of parents that plan, collect prizes, and chaperone the all-night senior party the night after graduation. “That’s just fun,” Kerri said. “The goal of senior night is to keep kids off the road graduation night, and celebrate the kids after 13 years!”

Basically no high school shows, concerts, trips or programs happen with the high quality they do without the undergirding of (mostly parent) volunteers. Take TAP, or Theatre Arts Parents, for example—a group of nine, frequently doubled by spouses, who promote theatre arts at HCHS. But like most of the HC volunteers when we ask why they even volunteer, they comment how much they are blessed by the experience:

“I decided to originally join the TAP board as our family was new to Holland Christian HS and theater so I thought it would be a great way to get to know other parents,” commented Ashley Hernandez, now VP of TAP. “It has been wonderful to connect with other theater parents who I now call friends, but more importantly, I have gotten to know all of the theater kids better by being at the performances, and bringing in meals and snacks for rehearsals and practices. We have been able to pray for all of the directors, actors, and crew every week during show seasons.”

If there would be no HCHS theatre without TAP, there also would be no band or orchestra concerts without Janet Jenosky, the volunteer band and orchestra assistant extraordinaire. We could honestly write this whole article on all that she does—without getting paid, and without any complaints—mostly. And she can tell you a beautiful story of how God led her daughter and her unexpectedly to Holland Christian over 10 years ago.

“I really love working at HC, and I worked too hard to get [Scott VandenBerg] organized to walk away and let someone else mess it up!” she laughed. “And I don’t want to get paid—then I can’t tell them what I don’t want to do!”

Janet starts coming in July to file and find music out of the over 2500 pieces HCHS owns, make copies, and organize music folders for all 139 HCHS band and orchestra students. She sorts their various uniforms, answers emails, plans and organizes the Disney trip every other year including who needs what meds, who is rooming with whom, and who is on which bus. Fortunately, Janet is a spreadsheet queen—you should see the colored tabs on the bottom of her screen—a good use of her finance degree, she laughs.

“I’m thrilled I have a spot, and am very grateful the Lord has given me gifts and grateful to use them!” she said. “I’m doing this unto the Lord—He gave me this place, I love what I do here, I love watching kids do what they do, watch them grow up!”

“Janet Jenosky has a servant’s heart,” added HCHS band and orchestra director Scott VandenBerg. “She loves to see others flourish and grow and for 10 years now she has been giving of her time so that HCHS band, orchestra, and choir students can do just that. The music department is thriving here at HCS and Janet has played a key role in this.”

Similarly, Holland Christian could not run our largest fundraisers without volunteers—the moms on the TGF Auction committee who meet regularly throughout the year to plan and organize the Tuition Grant Fund Auction, invite guests to their tables, then work the long busy evening as well. The volunteers who organize huge piles of paraphernalia at the Kids’ Stuff Resale, or the professionals who give the last Wednesday morning of October—almost always in torrents of rain—to visit local businesses asking for donations to our Business & Industry drive.

Using SS Services’ equipment, five Holland Christian grandparents, Dale Scholten ’68, Leon Koops ’63, Glenn Brink ’68, Keith Hulst ’68, and Dave Smits mow the HCHS, HCMS, and Pine Ridge lawns on a volunteer basis every Tuesday for a combined weekly 10-12 hours.

“We all are retired, know how to run the equipment, and have a passion for the school,” Dale said. “The flexibility makes it doable, and it’s a generational passion and support,” he said, adding that the five retired men sent their 16 children and now many of their grandchildren to Holland Christian.

HCHS athletics would not be what they are without so many dedicated volunteers—from ticket takers to even coaches. Sally Swets, who first worked for years as a professional tennis coach in Grand Rapids and Florida, then with the US Tennis Association, started volunteering back in 2008 as an assistant tennis coach at HCHS when her nieces were on the high school tennis team, and her own kids were in elementary school. Her nieces didn’t have anyone to hit with, she said, so she would hit with them an hour before practice.

But that was 16-17 years ago. And since then, Chuck Brower joined her when his son played on the boys tennis team, and now both assist both boys and girls teams.

“”The beauty of it is that the kids are what bring you back,” Sally said. “I’m blessed to have great relationships with all the players—boys and girls. They keep asking me to come back—this is my wheelhouse that God gave me!”

Like Janet, Sally also relishes being a volunteer rather than a paid coach: “The head coaches do all the detail work—it’s a blessing to go down on the court and just be with the kids!” she said. “I’m not the nice coach—go ahead and fire me!” she laughs.

And then the line we’ve heard from so many HC volunteers: “Both Chuck and I would say that we don’t need to be recognized—we do it because it’s just a joy!” Sally said.

Another program that couldn’t exist without volunteers, ditto, the nonprofit resale shop that helps make Christian education more affordable at both HC and Zeeland Christian School, lists over 120 volunteers. Cora Dykema ’45 is one of those, ever since 2004 when she started volunteering when her husband, Henry, was hired as the first ditto director. “They got two for the price of one!” Cora laughed, “I went along with him to do everything a pastor’s wife is supposed to do.”

Her husband quit a number of years ago due to Alzheimers, but Cora keeps coming back, even though she is 86, “Because ditto is more like family!” she said. “The first half an hour we just have therapy around these [breakroom] tables!”

But also because “Christian education is very important,” she added. “My kids didn’t have Christian education except through me,” Cora explains since the family were missionaries in Guam for 12 years, and her oldest was 16 when they came back to the States.

Cora used to work up front at ditto at the cash registers, but now “I like it better in the back,” she said. “We let our hair down—we have more fun in the back if we want to goof off!”

Jan Jonker ’66 and her husband, Jim ’67, both volunteer at ditto regularly—but not together. “I just feel ditto is an excellent way to give to the schools,” Jan said. “Plus it provides a wonderful service to the community that goes beyond just selling them stuff. The relationships you form with customers, with people! They strike up conversations, share needs, ask you to pray for them!”

Where do we even begin to thank all these volunteers? And there are so many more that go unnamed here, but are known and loved in their own niches throughout our various campuses. This whole article feels a little like a Hebrews 11 list of God’s faithful—ways that God’s people show up and give, “unto the Lord” by giving to all of us at Holland Christian, improving our learning, making our work more effective. Words don’t seem enough, but we are supremely grateful to them all—for their time, their talents, their joy and energy, their example to not just our students, but to us as staff and teachers as well: Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ in our community!