Kathy Meendering needs no introduction. A “tried and true” native of Orange City, a Northwestern grad and now that friendly face you wait to see in the caf, Kathy has been invested in the lives of NW students for years.
Maybe you know her better as the “lady who never forgets a name” or “my mom away from mom,” as some NW students describe her. She has heard them all over the past five years. And Friday in chapel, it was her turn to share her story.
“When Harlan came and asked me before Christmas break [to speak in chapel], I said, ‘Okay.’ He said to think about it, and I said, ‘Okay.’ He asked me, ‘What do you mean “okay”?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I will speak in chapel.’”
“I was on the panel for Natural Beauty Week in Fern last semester. There I was given the thought that I had something I could share with more people than just the ladies who were there that night.”
“The topic Harlan gave me was ‘trust in the Lord.’ I had it in my head already what I was going to speak on: how difficult it is to trust, how sometimes we put our trust in people, how I ended up here.”
As Kathy reflects, even with trust, it has not always been a clear path.
“I had been working at the Dutch Bakery for 22 years, but I was developing some health issues that come with age. I had the feeling that God was nudging me to change jobs, but I didn’t really want to.”
Renee, a Sodexo manager and friend of Kathy’s from a singing trio, mentioned the opening at NW. Kathy remembers now, with a laugh, “I thought, ‘You’ve got be kidding! College kids?’ Yes, I was a little prejudiced against your age group.”
A wife and a mother of three daughters, Kathy has a family of her own. But that doesn’t stop her from loving every NW student who comes through her door with faces bright, shining, or otherwise.
“Ken and I are now empty nesters, but I just collected all the college kids,” she remarked with that signature smile and laugh.
“My church, First Reformed here in Orange City, started a gifts-for-college-students program. You could put whatever you wanted up on the board: a place to hang out for the night, a home-cooked meal, cookies. I love to bake, so I put up a slip that said I would.”
“Since I worked here at the college, I would just bring the cookies to work and hand them to the student who took the slip here. So I noticed when it was the same guy was always pulling my slip off the board!”
“I joked with him, asking what he did with so many cookies. ‘I lead a Bible study and I use the cookies as treats,’ he said. I told him, ‘Okay here’s the deal. You leave my ticket on the board at church, and I will make you cookies for your Bible study.’”
Little did she know, this was the beginning of a lot of baking a joy that Kathy readily takes on, referring to it as her “cookie ministry.”
“Last year was the year I started baking for just the RAs, but this year I know too many RAs!” she joked. “I bake a bucket for each RA in the dorms once a semester, about 20 to 25 batches a week.”
Her favorite to bake? Chocolate chip oatmeal. “I don’t need the recipe anymore,” she said.
“I’ll bake cookies and have them covering all the counters. My children and husband tease me; they’ll try to take one and I’ll slap their hands saying, ‘These are for my kids!’”
The cookies have become a ministry tool with incredible outreach. This week Katherine White, a freshman on 3N Fern, remarked, “My RA got cookies yesterday, and I got one. They are the best!”
Kathy sums up the ministry simply, “One thing I have felt for years is that I want to be used to share Christ’s love to others, that’s just me. So I bake cookies. And when I sign my name, I add a heart at the top of the ‘K,’ looping into a Christos at bottom. Sharing Christ’s love. That’s what I want to do.”