From the mountains of Colorado to the small towns of rural Kansas, the Hesston College athletic teams spend their free time giving back to local communities.
Throughout the fall, coaches continue the tradition of service learning, making time for their teams to get their hands dirty, and uphold a longtime Hesston value.
Rob Ramseyer, athletic director, says he wants athletes to get more engaged with community service. At every home game, teams have collected items for hygiene kits for Mennonite Central Committee, which helps children affected by natural disasters around the world.
“Additionally, our teams have been active in work with Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Schowalter Villa, Hesston Homecoming Golf Benefit, Hesston recreation, and collected and sent clothes for hurricane relief efforts,” Ramseyer said.
The men’s soccer team, coached by Matthew Gerlach, traveled to Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp in Colorado for a week of team bonding amidst manual labor.
Sophomore Luke Hertzler explained some of the difficult work assigned to their team, which was split into two groups.
“The group working with the trees helped pull down the trees, pick up slash (which are the branches that have been cut off of the trunk), stack logs, and create mulch in a mulcher,” Hertzler said. “The group working with the mulch had the job of mulching two steep mountain sides where electrical line had just been placed.”
The team completed about 600 hours of community service that week, Gerlach said.
“It was a great opportunity for a bunch of people who had never met before to be thrown in vans for seven hours and have them accomplish tough work side by side,” Gerlach said.
While the manual labor helped the camp, Hertzler saw the value of building relationships with the staff working there.
“The staff echoed throughout the week that the service we were doing that week would benefit those in the future so that they could enjoy their time at the camp,” he said.
Gerlach finds team service projects valuable because it allows them to expand their worldview.
“Here in our own locations where we’ve lived or grown up, we tend to stick with what we know,” he said. “Service allows us to see things that we don’t know.”
Gerlach sees service as an opportunity to put personal opinions and beliefs aside and serve someone else.
“It gives insight to who you are as a person, allows you to grow, and in turn allows you to help others,” he said.
This fall, the women’s volleyball team helped at a Habitat for Humanity home in Newton for a few hours.
Sophomore Haley Unruh described how they helped insulate and drywall the project house.
“This was a good experience for us because it required a lot of manual work and a service heart,” she said.
Head coach Deedee Landes accompanied the team and appreciated how the owner of the house told her own story of escaping drug addiction and eventually living in her own house.
“Knowing that they helped with that impacted how they viewed their service,” she said.
Landes schedules a service project for her team every year, whether it involves serving at Schowalter Villa in Hesston, working for a few days at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp, or organizing a volleyball clinic for middle schoolers.
“Since the fall is a busy in-season time, I don’t push the team to do more than one, but another opportunity came up, and the captains chose to do it,” Landes said.
This second service project was connected to freshman Kylee Kasselman. Her family organizes a fall festival event to raise money for Kans for Kids, a local cancer organization.
“Service fits into many of Hesston College’s core covenants for athletic teams,” Landes said.
Landes sees the immediate benefits of the team service, such as team bonding and serving a greater purpose, but she wants each athlete to evaluate where service fits into their life.
“Hopefully there are lasting results that might show up later in life,” Landes said.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The women’s soccer team also participated in acts of service this fall. Basketball, baseball, and softball teams will follow suit later this year.