Creating commuter community

Sharpen’s coordinator, John Miller, senior, takes time to talk with classmate Gabriel Adams, junior.

Sharpen’s coordinator, John Miller, senior, takes time to talk with classmate Gabriel Adams, junior. Photo by Kellianne Elliot/THE FALCON

Alicia McNeil , junior, and Elisheva Zoolkoski, sophomore, reconnect at Sharpen’s post-Gather lunch. Photo by Kellianne Elliot/THE FALCON

Alicia McNeil , junior, and Elisheva Zoolkoski, sophomore, reconnect at Sharpen’s post-Gather lunch. Photo by Kellianne Elliot/THE FALCON

Taking a nap right after class on the morning of Nov. 5 was senior Dre Anderson’s original plan. But after happening upon a couple friends walking to Gather, his naptime was postponed when he somehow ended up in Sharpen’s post-Gather lunch at the Kingswood House, eating Mexican food with over 30 off-campus students.

“So I go to Chapel, and then I’m like, ‘Alright, cool I got 15 minutes until class. I can take another nap,’ ” Anderson said. “Then they’re like, ‘Wait, you can have lunch at the Sharpen house.’ And I was like, ‘What? Lunch for commuters? Yes.’ ”

Every Tuesday at 12 p.m., off-campus and Campus Houses and Apartment  students gather in the Kingswood House on the corner of West Dravus Street for a post-Gather lunch.

Post-Gather lunch is one of the events put on by Sharpen, SPU’s discipleship ministry for commuter, transfer and CHA students.

The name “Sharpen” was inspired by the bible verse Proverbs 27:17 — “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (NKJV).”

“So the idea is life is just better together — life is better in community,” Sharpen Coordinator John Miller, a senior, said. “I think one of the main things that Sharpen wants is for people to not be lonely. We want to be in community, build relationships and sharpen each other.”

Created during the 2004-2005 school year, Sharpen originally focused on creating small groups. According to CHA Assistant Residence Life Coordinator Tim Stanley, there are currently 435 CHA students.

Including students who live off campus and in CHA, Miller estimates there are nearly 1500 off-campus students total.

“Off campus is about 1500,” Miller said. “I believe that’s everybody outside of the [residence halls].”

Anderson said when he looked around the room of students he felt refreshed.

“I like looking around the room seeing a lot of smiles, feeling the good vibes. It’s definitely helped wake me up,” Anderson said. “Whereas before coming in here I wanted to nap, now I feel a little refreshed, a little restored. I think that comes from good human energy.”

According to Culinary Coordinator junior Bree Ferguson, Sharpen members encourage one another as off-campus students, but are not quite sharpening each other yet.

“As of now, I don’t know that I can say that we’re strengthening each other because we’re just encouraging each other,” Ferguson said.

Senior Micah Bovenkamp, social networking and sports events coordinator, sees the significance of a growing off-campus population.

“There’s now more off-campus and commuter students than there are students who live in the dorms at SPU… It speaks volumes to our ministry because we really are reaching to a bigger student population than we ever have been before,” Bovenkamp said.

Now that Gather is at 11:10 a.m. this year instead of 9:30 a.m., Sharpen had to turn its pre-Gather breakfast into post-Gather lunch, which has brought in more students than last year.

Senior Kacy Braunschweig, a commuter from West Seattle, doesn’t feel it’s too hard to find community because she has a small music major department. On Nov. 5, Braunschweig attended Sharpen’s post-Gather lunch for the first time.

“I know a lot of people that commute and they don’t really have that. They’re kind of bouncing all over campus. I think that’s [post-Gather lunch] a really cool way to bring people together,” Braunschweig said.

Sharpen is now receiving quadruple the amount of money for post-Gather lunch than before.

“With the proposal that just went through, we now have $60 to spend on each lunch, which is great,” Miller said. “We had $15 per lunch, so $15 to feed 50 people is just not enough. Sixty dollars is a little more reasonable.”

Food had run out during post-Gather lunch when they had the previous budget.

“A couple of the weeks, food has completely run out,” Miller said. “So we’re glad to have more money, so we can make sure that doesn’t happen. And make sure people get fed because I hate turning people away hungry.”

Pre-basketball game dinners, mic nights and monthly hikes are events that Sharpen hopes will create community and relationships.

“We also thought about doing study nights and game nights, possibly open mic or a movie night sometime soon here,” Bovenkamp said. “We’re still in the planning process for those, obviously. We don’t have anything set in stone, but we’re looking to do some events like that.”

Sharpen just hosted its first pre-basketball game dinner on Saturday.

Junior Cameron Speer said the night started out slow but soon became a comfortable social atmosphere.

“I feel like the people that came had a good time. I know I did,” Speer said. “It was free food — can’t beat that — and the conversation was real fun to have.”

This article was posted in the section Features.

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