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Twenty-nine years, over 300 students, hundreds of internships, at least three colleges, seven directors, one name change and, through them all, two constants—a vision to place students in the city to study politics, poverty, race, culture, and faith, and one rambling, Victorian house in the upper Northeast.
That house has been the home for the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (formerly known as the Washington Study-Service Year) since the program’s inception. No matter your reasons for choosing WCSC, no matter the differences in politics or approaches to faith, no matter if you couldn’t boil hotdogs without burning them—the house and the people in it welcomed you back every night.
But as the program adapted to changing realities of recruitment, technology and students’ academic needs, it became clear that the house did not have the flexibility to accommodate the program’s future. In order for WCSC to thrive, the facility would have to change.
Nelson Good’s involvement with WCSC is legendary. Founder of the program, he was the director for many years and returned to the program as a member of the advisory board. When current directors Kim Schmidt and Doug Hertzler began talking about the current house’s limitations, their vision for an expanded facility and their worries about the current real estate market, Nelson came to them saying that this was a nut he would like to crack. As he was providing voluntary leadership for the project—from finding the building to gathering the architectural and construction teams, to working with the development office—he was diagnosed with cancer. Nelson passed away in July.
So when over 120 alumni and friends of WCSC gathered August 20 at 836 Taylor Street in Northeast D.C., it was not only a celebration of the new facility and of the program, but of Nelson Good’s life. Guests heard music from Jeremiah’s Run, which includes two former WCSC students Keith Lyndaker and Brett Sherman. Former director Jackie Sabath welcomed the crowd and Cindy Lapp, a former student as well as a director, led the singing.
Deborah Good (pictured at right), Nelson’s daughter and a former WCSC student, read her poem about her father and his ability to inhabit two places at once—a Lancaster farm boy and an urban activist—who was an outsider in both yet a stranger in neither. Kimberly Schmidt, current director, talked of how WCSC symbolizes a return to the urban centers, where Anabaptism was first born in the sixteenth century, and Loren Swartzendruber represented EMU’s strong commitment to WCSC by commenting on its future and what the program symbolizes for, not just students, but the larger EMU community.
After internship providers and former students read a blessing, people were invited to help create a butterfly garden in the back yard by planting plants and flowers or placing rocks.
Moving into the new facility is more than just growing for the future; it is an example of how the past—the history of the program and of Nelson Good’s involvement—is alive in the present and informing the future of the program. How fitting then that the new facility be called the Nelson W. Good House; students will still gather at the end of the day, exploring new ideas and new approaches to racism and poverty, sexism, culture, art, and faith in an urban setting and they will do it in a home that, although new, is already rich with memories.
—LeAnne Zook (C 95)