Lawrence and Louise Matthews hosted an annual party celebrating community and fellowship Sept. 10 at the Bluffton University Nature Preserve. In spite of chilly weather and a constant threat of rain, those in attendance said the event still provided a good opportunity to connect with others they had yet to meet. Photo by Erika Byler
By Erika Byler
Bluffton University students, faculty, staff and community members gathered the evening of Sept. 10 at Lawrence and Louise Matthews’ home for an annual party celebrating community and fellowship.
The Matthewses have lived on and cared for the Bluffton University Nature Preserve for 30 years and have long enjoyed holding these annual parties to bring together the campus and the wider community.
Louise Matthews said her goal for the event is “giving an opportunity for community building.”
The event included volleyball, Frisbee, hotdogs, corn hole and a bonfire for roasting marshmallows. The evening also presented new students with an opportunity to visit the preserve’s swinging bridge for the first time.
Each year the date of the party strategically chosen so as many students as possible can come. The come-and-go style of the party allows for more a hundred people to enjoy the festivities throughout the evening, Louise Matthews said.
She said in the past sometimes more than a hundred people have attended the event, but this year’s chilly weather and a constant threat of rain may have kept attendance lower. Those in attendance said the smaller numbers did not impact the evening’s fun or their ability to discover community with their classmates.
“It was really nice being out in nature with the fire and good food,” said Irena Xhari, a junior business major.
She said it was good to see other international students enjoying the new experience of just hanging out around a fire for several hours. Xhari is originally from Albania and has spent the past two years attending Hesston (Kan.) College.
“I definitely connected with some people that I had only got to know their name beforehand,” said Shelby Miller, a junior from Pettisville, Ohio.
She said she observed community being built when a group of students shifted their conversation to Spanish in order to connect with a peer for whom English is a second language.
The Bluffton University Nature Preserve is located west of the practice soccer field off Augsburger Road and is open from dawn to dusk. Maps are available at the Marbeck Center desk.