To open the blog we reached out to Valparaiso University President Mark A. Heckler at the Academic Overture who shared his thoughts on Valparaiso University’s service with Valparaiso Volunteers. Regarding service President Heckler states,
“Valparaiso University is constituted of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs engaged in dialogue with one another in the common pursuit of truth. Students, faculty, staff and alumni also share in common a passion for leading and serving locally and globally. Service takes many forms at Valpo, from faith-based mission trips, to offering health care or engineering expertise to underserved communities in the U.S. and abroad, to volunteering in after-school programs or the local soup kitchen. Valpo’s community serves generously and cultivates hope. Valpo’s graduates carry that spirit of leadership and service from this place to every continent where they truly make a positive difference in their communities and places of worship. They are good people doing great things for a world that needs them. Go Valpo!”
—The Academic Overture, an annual party for faculty and staff, puts the University’s mission statement of “leading and serving the community” to action. True to form, the University staff partied the night away chatting about the upcoming year. Like their students Professors debated the merits of changing course materials, their individual teaching styles, syllabi and how to attract and inspire students. Library staff discussed their upcoming work with Professors, sustaining and creating new friendships. People shared everything from a rare treatise by Luther to iPhone photos of their vacation. The aim of the entire experience was to enjoy a lovely evening with coworkers and significant others before the start of the academic year.
The theme of the evening was the farm, complete with photos of local farms, country music and a buffet of local farms. President Heckler proudly announced the University’s own cheif bids on the pigs at the local Porter County Fair. The University’s dedication to local and compassionately raised animals was showcased by the two youngest party goers. Verholt Farm’s youngest farmers raised two piglets through their local 4-H club. 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States with six million young farmers, teaching skills and providing leadership roles in their community clubs. The non-profit organization is not officially partnered with Valparaiso University. However, a real opportunity to lead in service, Valpo decided to support local businesses by bidding on one local farm’s 4-H pigs.
The Kouts Indiana farm, Verholt Farms won multiple ribbons for their family’s animals. The children wore proud smiles while receiving praise for their award-winning pigs. The children laughed as the eldest child answered again the repeated question, what was the best part? – it was being able to raise the pigs. The youngest farmer added, “it was just so fun!” The pair were the celebrities of the night. People lined up to talk to them, take pictures with them and congratulate them on the best bacon bar they’d ever had. Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Mark Biermann congratulated them. The well-loved and superbly treated pigs were turned into a maple, jalapeno or chocolate covered bacon, pork belly or pulled pork sandwiches and a pile of decadent ribs. Photos and ribbons lined the wall alongside photos of the happy children and pigs.
The university’s own Art Department Chair and Professor Amy Tomasek brought the Porter County fair to life via photographs. Professor Burow-Flak of the English department commented on the vivid and “great person to know” Professor Tomasek is. Assistant Professor of Accounting Professor Luis and Assistant Professor of Psychology Professor Wetherell discussed new ideas to engage students in Masters or Senior projects. The atmosphere of the night was one of support and renewal before the meeting the new year. The people who make the University run were revving up to welcome returning and new students, as well as getting ready to help graduating students find their way in the world outside Valpo.
The bespoke fair celebrated local farmers and encouraged the future support of local artisans. President Heckler presented the different farmers and encouraged the University to support them. This real-life example of serving the community, Valpo truly supports local farmers. The university purchased food from local farms for the dinning services and dining halls. For example, party goers dinned on one local farm’s five different gourmet salads, a new local and healthy option that is being added to the dining hall this year. The university is dedicated to supporting community and the health of the university in new innovative ways.
The question of how to support a non-profit is often complicated. Yet, consider the simple way Valparaiso University and President Heckler implemented local food at a party. Supporting the non-profits of the community is much more than an annual donation. It can be as simple as the source of the sandwich or salad you eat for lunch. It could be meeting new friends and picking up trash while enjoying the rolling sands and majestic lake at the Dunes. It can be anything you want. For the next party you host, only your imagination is the limit. Professor Buinicki of the English department hosts non-profit parties at his home, introducing one new organization to friends while enjoying the evening with them. Maybe your children would like to visit the 4-H booth at the Porter fair next year. Perhaps your next party could include a few pamphlets about an upcoming blood or food drive. Who knows who might join you? Valparaiso Volunteers might be there. Check out the local orgs page and see what inspires you. Follow us this semester and learn more about how non-profit fits into student life!
Want more info:
Valparaiso University: www.valpo.edu
Verhold Farm in Kouts, Indiana