Westmont staff member Lori Call makes her first trip with potter’s clay and discovers a different dimension of community
For eight years, Lori Call has sensed something intangible about Westmont, something difficult to describe. As director of foundation and corporate relations, she must find words and stories that express the college’s character to potential donors. “It’s hard to put your finger on it,” she says. “It’s just one of those things you know when you see it.
Over time, Lori has gotten to know professors and students. “I’ve come to appreciate their intelligence, competence and scholarship as well as their character, compassion and sense of mission in life,” she says.
Lori also witnessed Westmont’s impact when she participated in Potter’s Clay in March. For more than 30 years, students have planned and directed this week-long ministry in Ensenada, Mexico.
Her experience began on the drive down with Ed Wyche, father of women’s soccer alumna Jane Wyche ’07. “There must be something in the water at Westmont,” Ed said. “There’s not a Westmont student I’ve ever met who didn’t totally impress me.” A faithful fan, Ed attended every one of Jane’s soccer games. For the last few years, he has worked on a Potter’s Clay construction team with Dan Ribbens ’77 (right), the women’s assistant soccer coach and a master contractor. Dan draws site plans and equipment lists for all of Potter’s Clay, and he welcomes students to his home when they need a place to stay.
Evan Engle ’09 went out of his way to welcome Lori and Kati Buehler, associate director of planned giving. A resident assistant in Clark Halls, Evan has worked with first-year students there who lost their rooms and possessions in the Tea Fire.
Evan co-led a construction team, and Lori got to see him handle another difficult situation. The contractor on his team suffered a serious injury, and Evan guided students as they decided whether or not to continue the project. To encourage the pastor of the church under construction — who had already suffered a fire and other problems — the students returned the next day for prayer and worship with the congregation.
Lori arrived at her construction site and was impressed to see leader Maddie Deegan ’10 greet Elsa and Fernando and their six children in fluent Spanish. Maddie and co-leader Caleb Bagdanov ’12 established a close relationship with this family, for whom the team built a two-story house, (above) during previous visits to Ensenada.
About 30 building contractors and medical and dental professionals join hundreds of students for Potter’s Clay each year, donating time, expertise and supplies. “They were completely devoted to sharing their gifts and passions, putting their own professional practices on hold to mentor students and help strangers,” Lori says.
Lori learned that many students didn’t know fellow team members, noting “By the end of the week, it was clear they had grown to respect and care for each other.”
“Is it community that makes Westmont so special?” she asks. “Whatever it is, it’s there. It’s real. It’s unique. It extends beyond the campus. It draws people in and causes them to reach out to others. You just know it when you see it.”