The aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and the sound of carefree conversation and laughter gave life to the small Lundy home, and warmed the hands and hearts of seven Hillsdale College students in the midst of a chilly December. Carolyn and Larry Lundy, an octogenarian couple who live near campus, lit up at the sight of every visitor that crossed their threshold with a cheerful “Hey, Mom and Gramps!”
“Our house is open to them,” said Carolyn Lundy, whom the students refer to as Mama Lundy. “Just like these girls come tonight and say, ‘We wanna bake cookies.’ Well, okay.”
The Lundy couple and the students that frequent their home are the happy participants in College Baptist Church’s Adopt-a-Student program. The program, a popular tradition for three years now, matches students with a family in the church that becomes their adoptive family.
For the Lundys, adoption is more than meeting someone new.
“I just can’t tell you how much I love these kids,” said Mama Lundy. “They mean the world to me.”
Before coming to College Baptist, the couple, who are now 82, had spent time with other college students, and although it was not an adoption program, they fell in love with them. They heard about the church’s adopt-a-student two years ago, and they immediately knew that they wanted to get involved. Since then, they have adopted six college students: sophomore Matthew Clark, sophomore Victoria Johnston, freshman Danielle Lee, sophomore Lydia Paroline, sophomore Samuel Musser, and freshman Noel Schroeder. Johnston, Lee, and Schroeder are their additions from the fall semester of 2017, and they have been welcomed with open arms.
But it is widely known in the church that it is not just these six that frequent the Lundy household; anyone who puts a foot through the screen door has unwittingly been added in to the family.
The program appears to be a touching success to people like the Lundys and their adopted family. Many students arrive without any nearby foundations, and as time wears on, they find that they miss the kind of love and support they had in their families back home. The program aims to help fill that gap by welcoming students into the Hillsdale community and giving them a chance to connect with its members.
Program Director Stephanie Maxwell, a biological mother of two children and an adoptive mother of four students, says that the students and the families have a wonderful connection.
“It is so neat to see this intergenerational relationship building,” she said. “College is just such a unique time of being surrounded by your peers 24/7, so to have the chance to get out of that a little bit and be with different ages is a great thing.”
The Lundy’s household is a great model of the program’s goal to connect different age groups in the Hillsdale community. Lee joined the family only recently. She had been part of a close-knit church community back home in California, and she began searching for that same intimacy here.
“I really wanted that again and to meet people in the church and so that’s why I joined the program,” Lee said. “I’m very blessed with it.”
Her adopted sister, sophomore Lydia Paroline, said that the intergenerational connection in the program appealed to her. She believes that it is a good idea for students to get involved with the church and meet older people who can offer their own insights.
“It’s important for us, especially since we’re at Hillsdale — which is very much a bubble — to get off campus and get to know people who are older and wiser than us and who have experience that we can learn from,” she said. “We can get very stuck up and do really stupid things. So we need to get outside of our age group.”
Sophomore Samuel Musser agreed, saying that this connection allows students to step out of their comfort zone in college. To him, stepping out gives students a chance to lead a life that focuses on the needs of a community and its members.
“You’re not just with your college crowd, and you get the opportunities to serve others that are not your age and get wisdom…to live a countercultural life as far as living college goes.”
The program has also provided an opportunity for many participants to realize how much support they can gain from one another. In December, Mama Lundy had to be taken to the hospital for a hip injury. It had been her third time in the hospital this past year.
“When I come home from the hospital,” she said, eyes brimming with happy tears, “there was a bunch of kids here cooking meals for it and…they’re the greatest kids I’ve ever seen. Adopted kids and others.” She held up a pink “Welcome Home” sign. “I got home from the hospital. These were all over the house. The front door, every door away, the bathrooms, my table!”
The Lundys and the students consider having one another a great blessing; each adoption story is personal and unique. The church goes through the adoption process every fall. The students fill out a form that asks about their personality and preferences, and Maxwell gets in contact with both the adoptees and the adoptive parents.
“Every adopted family and student are a little bit different,” said sophomore Maria Forsythe, an adopted student of the Mendham family. “When they also match up students with families, they definitely do it by personality.”
As the chocolate chip cookies in the Lundy house came out of the oven, other adoptees gathered in the living room for a special concert for Mama Lundy, who couldn’t make it to their winter orchestra performance. Many students, some of whom are not adopted by the Lundys, made their way out the door, hugging the elderly couple before they leave.
Mama Lundy smiled. “These kids have been something else. They’re always texting me, saying how are you…Have you ever been to College Baptist? There’s a lot of love there. A lot of love for these students. And these students know it.”