Scholarship Monies Donated to HACC

On Monday October 15 we were honored at a special ceremony at the Gettysburg Campus of HACC.  Zion is a donor to the scholarship fund, and was recognized along with other donors.  Present at the ceremony were some of the students who have benefited from the scholarships.  Roger and Cindy Bushey attended, along with Pastor Kim, representing our congregation. We are also blessed to be able to give HACC a check for $1000, this week.  It will benefit the “Yellow Ribbon” program which assists veterans with tuition costs in excess of their GI Bill funds.   Here is a photo of us with several of the scholarship recipients:

Here is the text of the keynote address given by Pastor Kim at the ceremony–

“Bread Upon the Waters”

HACC Gathering of Students and Scholarship Donors–October 15, 2012

By Kim Blocher

It is my great honor and privilege to offer a brief message at this gathering.  And you may well wonder how it came to be that a pastor of a local church is here speaking at a community college.  I thought it was a gutsy move by Shannon to offer me this speaking slot.  I’ll try not to abuse the honor or make her re-think that decision!

My connection To HACC is through our church, Zion UCC in Arendtsville.  Over the last several years we have been blessed to be able to make contributions to both the scholarship fund and the student emergency fund.  We have a special heart for veterans at Zion, so we have also participated in the veteran’s scholarship fund administered through the local VFW. We love being able to do this because it is for us a blessing to be able return a portion of our blessings to others.   As church members we are called to have generous hearts, so there is a theological underpinning for us.

But why does a church contribute to a community college?  Churches typically give in more traditional avenues like Church World Service, Habitat, CROP, even the local fire company…and we do indeed support those things.  But several years ago we began to realize that we were called to help those who were struggling to help themselves ; by improving their education and job prospects.  It seemed to us giving to HACC had a tremendous multiplier effect for our member’s hard-earned dollars.   We invest a little and get back so much more.  Students have an opportunity to gain a degree, get a better job, provide a better life for themselves and their families.  And in so doing they increase the quality of community life for us all.  As Ecclesiates 11:1 puts it “Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.”

And that brings me to the real point of my message.  This gathering is not about highlighting dollars donated.  I’m sure all the donors appreciate this attention and it’s nice to be thanked.  And certainly it’s great to meet hard-working, worthy students.   But we have a higher calling here tonight that really has nothing to do recipient or donor.

In this room , even as we speak, a rare and precious resource is being formed.  It is called social capital. I would briefly like to explain what I mean by that.  For those of you who have taken or who are taking Econ 101, you know the definition of capital.   Capital is a factor of production and it can take the form of money, labor, materials, land…all the resources we need to produce wealth in an economic exchange.   These factors have to be in balance because a shortage of one will necessitate a re-allocation of another.  For instance, if there is a shortage of labor you will need more money to attract labor.  So it is all about allocation of scarce resources.  Social capital is different, but no less vital to society.

The central notion to social capital is “relationships matter.”  The social researcher Robert Putnam defines it as connections among individuals, and the social networks and social good that arise from those connections.  Social capital is all the resources linked within those relationships.   Look around you in this room.  We have students, teachers, business leaders, community leaders, church leaders, and people from all walks of life.  The combined assets, resources for problem solving, present in and among us, is really very startling.  I hope you all find startling the possibilities present in our social capital.

Communities are most powerful, most healthy, most productive when they exist in a dense web of mutually supportive relationships. Social capital is always in short supply.  Researchers would say that there has been a significant decline in participation in civic life and associations.     And unlike other forms of capital, you can’t make an increase in something else to compensate for that lack of social capital.  It is a unique commodity.

Now I promised to be brief and certainly this is a complex topic on which social researchers have written volumes.  But we don’t need reams of research to understand the value of us getting to know each other.   Together we can tackle problems and magnify resources in ways that we can’t do simply operating in our own individual spheres of influence.  A church is just a church.  A college is just a college.  A bank is just a bank.  A student is just a student.  A teacher is just a teacher.  Until such time as we recognize our mutual interdependence and then we become a community.  We must be aware that our fates are linked.  Social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives.

In conclusion I want to do something I’ve not been able to do since I was a teacher almost 20 years ago.  I’m handing out an assignment…not just to our students but to all of us.  Do some research on this topic of social capital, talk about it with others in the organizations represented here tonight.  How can we best share all the resources available in our web of mutual interdependence?

Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.