Dordt College News

Dordt College receives Compassionate Employer Award

April 28, 2003

Dordt College has been selected by The Compassionate Friends (TCF) Organization as a recipient of a 2003 Compassionate Employer Award.

Nationally, 45 employers this year received recognition for going above and beyond the normal policies of most companies in helping an employee after the death of a child. Dordt College was the only Iowa company named, after being nominated by employee Colleen Van Berkum.

“Your company’s support and compassion following the death of Colleen’s son, Jesse, demonstrates that America’s workplaces can indeed go beyond what is often considered ‘standard bereavement policy’ in assisting their employees in transitioning back to their jobs following this life-altering event. We applaud your commitment and efforts on their behalf,” stated Susan Chan, TCF national board member in a letter of congratulations to the college.

Van Berkum was a secretary for the college registrar, Douglas Eckardt, when he was killed in a traffic accident in Sioux Center. Less than a year later, her son was fatally injured in a car-moped accident. In nominating Dordt College for the award, Colleen said the following: Compassionate Employer Award

“On Saturday, Sept. 20, 1997, Mr. Douglas Eckardt, the registrar at Dordt College was killed as he crossed Highway 75 in downtown Sioux Center, Iowa. Doug was my boss. At the age of 45, he left this world, and he left two secretaries to pick up the dangling pieces of a job we all thought he would return to on Monday morning.

“I am a secretary for a small, private Christian college in a community where most people know one another. Dordt College employs 85 faculty and around 80 staff and support people. Because we are small, the interaction between faculty and staff lends to a warm, caring environment. Dordt College is a member of an employee assistance program called Connections. In the days and months following Doug’s death, we were offered counseling and extra time to deal with the tragedy of losing a co-worker and friend. Little did I know that less than one year later, I would again need to deal with a terrible loss.

“When I received the news that my 14-year-old son had been hit head-on while riding his moped, and that he was suffering from traumatic head injuries, the college immediately allowed me to spend the next four weeks at the hospital. Many, many caring individuals visited us and sent cards and letters of encouragement, along with flowers, books and food to my family. When my son Jesse finally succumbed to his injuries, the college again showed tremendous love and concern by allowing me time at home to deal with our loss. Never did I feel pressure to return to my tasks at work, and my co-workers patiently and lovingly covered for my absence. When after three weeks of grief-leave I did return to work, certainly not productive or industrious, the college embraced me with their concern, patience and love.

“My loyalty and dedication is owed to a warm, caring community of friends and co-workers here at Dordt College. There simply could not have been a more supportive work place to help me through the darkest days of my life.”

The Compassionate Employer Award was presented to Dordt College Thursday, April 24, by Barb Lorimor, Des Moines, with Dr. Carl E. Zylstra accepting the award on behalf of college.

The Compassionate Friends is the world’s largest self-help bereavement organization, providing support and friendship to families that have experienced the death of a child, with a mission of assisting families toward the positive resolution of grief. The non-profit group has no membership fees, and now consists of 600 chapters in the United States, along with chapters in 29 countries around the world.

The criteria for Compassionate Employer Recognition are: corporate policies that reflect a compassionate attitude toward bereaved parents and siblings; personal support extended by management team towards bereaved parents and siblings on their staff; caring attitudes demonstrated by employer’s entire workforce; flexibility in work assignments and evaluation of job performance during the stress and personal pain associated with the death of a child; all other acts of compassion that bereaved parents and siblings will forever remember.

This is the third year for recognition of employers by The Compassionate Friends. Recipients of the recognition jumped from three the first year to 24 last year, and this year to 45, about one employer per state.

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