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ISSUE 118 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/1/2004

Total collections rise: Student Congregation pleased with amount

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor

Friday, October 1, 2004

At the first worship service of the 2004-2005 school year, St. Olaf Student Congregation announced an unusually high benevolence total of $13,379 for the last school year.

The total included all offering money in excess of the congregation's operating budget.

For the 2002-2003 year, offerings totaled around $9,000, according to Student Congregation President Val Veo '05.

Each Sunday morning, offerings average about $200, but each Sundays giving total depends on the number of visitors.

"Giving is high on Sundays when we have many visitors," said Justin Vonstroh 05, current secretary of St. Olafs Student Congregation, citing Homecoming weekend and Christmas Fest as the two highest giving Sundays.

Last year, Student Congregation received almost $3,000 on the Sunday of Homecoming weekend.

That offering was given to Ruth's House of Hope in Faribault, which provides transitional housing for victims of domestic violence.

According to Veo, one possible reason for the large offering increase could be the promotion of Heifer Project International during Christmas Fest weekend.

St. Olaf Student Congregation gives annually to many organizations, including the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and People Serving People.

Due to higher than expected benevolence last year, however, Student Congregation was able to give money to more organizations.

Recipients were chosen based on need and on their request for help from the Student Congregation.

"We just see what we get in the mail," Vonstroh said. "When a group needs our help, our usual donation is $400."

On-campus groups are not the primary target of Student Congregation benevolence monies. Instead, they look to the off-campus community.

"Our purpose is not to fund on-campus organizations," Vonstroh said. "Were not another SGA in that respect."

Giving money to organizations is by far the most fun job we have," Vonstroh said. "Decisions are usually unanimous. Its fun to be able to give money away."

Veo shares Vonstroh's enthusiasm. "I am overjoyed at the amount of benevolence we received," she said.

The two organizations receiving the greatest amount of money were Heifer Project International, which received around $5,000, and Ruth's House of Hope, which received almost $3,000.

St. Olafs Student Congregation "aims to be an inclusive worship community on campus," Veo said. "We consider ourselves to be a congregation in the midst of an active Christian community on campus."

Vonstroh emphasized Student Congregation's commitment to St. Olaf students. "Our mission is to keep students active in their faith lives," he said.

Though last years benevolence totals were higher than expected, Student Congregation will not change long-term goals. "Money will never change our goals," Vonstroh said.

Veo did mention other goals of Student Congregation, however. "We want to make Student Congregation something students are aware of," Veo said. "We want students to think of stewardship in many different ways."

While last year's increased benevolence will not change the missions of Student Congregation, its members remain excited for the upcoming year. "I am very excited about the things we can do," Veo said.

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