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Danielle Lee, Emily Ju, and Noel Schroeder with the Lundys, their adoptive family from College Baptist Church. Alexis Daniels | Col­legian

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.”