GOAL—“A Few Good Student Men” help the community with house and yard work.

A Few Good Men: See the Need, Meet the Need

Written by Minte Christiansen

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke’s quote inspired the name of A Few Good Men, a student-created, community-focused volunteer program on campus. I had heard about them, read emails, seen posters, and gone to a few lectures, but the group—now a non-profit organization in the Hillsdale community—has a much larger presence at the college and in the town of Hillsdale than I first realized, and it’s all happened in just a few years.

Ben Holscher, the founder and director of A Few Good Men, seemed to almost accidentally come up with the program during a dorm volunteering competition. Whichever hallway in his dorm accumulated the most volunteer hours over the semester won a trip to Six Flags Great America, so the boys in his dorm volunteered vigorously (and who wouldn’t, with a prize like that?). One semester and 850+ hours of volunteering later, Ben realized the real prize was being able to establish relationships with needy members of the Hillsdale community, who would miss the boys’ help in the coming months.

I find the group’s origin really interesting, but their future is even more captivating: to continue their helpful presence among the needy, Ben led the volunteering group to be an official, college-recognized organization. Unlike other campus groups I’ve heard about, though, which focus on one volunteering venue such as food pantries or the local preschool, A Few Good Men assists the needy Hillsdale citizens with anything and everything. “We help the community in whatever capacity needed, from chopping wood to painting to moving boxes of books,” sophomore and volunteer Ilana Goehner explained.

A Few Good Men’s mission statement is “See the Need, Meet the Need,” and Bridget Ervin, the organization’s executive assistant, explained how prevalent their motto is in their work: “We’re closest to the needs, and we respond to the needs of local people who can’t help themselves or don’t have a community who can help them.” The volunteering crews—groups of about five students with one crew leader—give of their time, service, and friendship.

“One of our focuses in moving forward is connecting those who need help with a community who can check on them and fulfill their relational needs as well as their physical needs,” Bridget said. “There’s a strong serving element in what we do.”

“You have to see the need in order to meet it,” Ben added. “It’s good for the kids volunteering to see the need that’s out there, so they’re inspired to fight against it.”

As if the program’s influence and growth wasn’t already impressive, Ben described their three main goals—give, serve, and protect—as well as their bigger long-term goals. “We started as a volunteer program at the college; now we’re a non-profit in Hillsdale, and we hope to be a model for other communities to start their own volunteer groups,” Ben said, vision glowing in his eyes. He and Bridget both explained how A Few Good Men wants to help eliminate the need for government welfare and create a more voluntary, private, community-based welfare program, not just with college students, but with those willing to help out in the community itself. “We already have community-member crews,” Bridget mentioned excitedly.

Now A Few Good Men is much larger than one hallway of boys volunteering for a trip, including men and women both from campus and the community. They email over 250 people with volunteering opportunities and have nearly 100 consistent volunteers. Non-administrative students volunteer once a week for a few hours, often at the same places to build relationships with the people they help.

“Out of all the volunteering I do, A Few Good Men is the most fun,” said volunteering freshman Jessica Stratil.

Kirklan Ventrella, a sophomore who leads his own crew for the program, commented, “Volunteering is a good break from studying. It’s good to see the community around you—we live at the college and are all around campus, but A Few Good Men lets you see the community as well.”

I like that beyond volunteering, they’ve also involved themselves on campus by hosting lectures, called “Men in the Arena” and “Women of Virtue,” to help students learn about the complementary roles of males and females. They always have interesting speakers presenting, who are usually faculty members, and they have even had the pleasure of hearing from the illustrious Dr. Arnn. Ben explained that they wanted the series to present “a dialogue to move men and women to action,” and I think they’ve reached that goal.

What’s most inspiring to me about A Few Good Men is the dedication of its members. “It’s really been a blessing in a huge way,” Bridget told me with a smile, and I know she meant for herself as well as those they help in Hillsdale.

“I hope people see the power of an active life to change a person’s life for the better,” Ben Holscher, the founder, explained. “We are changing lives, and that gives us a sense of purpose. We do it with all our heart. Even in its simplicity, even when we’re just shoveling snow, what we do is noble.”

Minte Christiansen is a sophomore majoring in English with minors in Art and Classical Education. She is involved in the Eta Sigma Phi Classics Honorary and the Residence Life team on campus.