DECATUR — Lindsay Tipsword of Decatur, a transfer student on her way to her first class at Millikin University, got a warm welcome Monday morning that had nothing do with a high of 93 degrees in the forecast.

Carol Huss and Cindy Laegeler were giving out free water, coffee, breakfast bars and bananas on behalf of Westminster Prebsyterian Church to passing faculty, staff and students to kick off the school year.

“This is awesome of you guys to do,” Tipsword said, gratefully accepting a bottle of cold water.

Church members will be doing the same thing this morning for three reasons — to invite everyone on campus to a hot dog cookout from 5:30 to 7 tonight in the church’s north parking lot, let them know that the church’s Sunday worship service is at 10 a.m. and to simply be hospitable.

“They’re a part of us, and it just feels like we need to reach out,” Laegeler said.

This is the second year the church has welcomed Millikin students to campus in this fashion, an outreach started last year by the Rev. Tim Kovalcik, who is also an associate professor of history.

“At least 300 students walk by here every day, not including faculty and staff,” he said. “We’d like to do even more outreach to campus this year.”

Kovalcik said one idea under consideration is to offer something for international students during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Jacqui Rogers, a senior from Granite City and president of Millikin’s student senate, applauded the church for engaging students. “Sometimes we feel like we’re in a bubble living on campus, and this is a great reminder we are part of the community,” she said.

A blue “Welcome Millikin” banner stretched along the east side of the church building heralded two breakfast stations in the east parking lot Monday, one at the intersection of Fairview Avenue and West Main Street and the other farther north on Fairview near a crosswalk.

Diana Rinchiuso, who was staffing the north table with Joyce Heath, said students seemed to appreciate the gesture and that a couple of seniors had been happy to tell them that Monday was their “last first day of school.”

Creg Pierson, a junior from Decatur, said he thinks the outreach is an excellent way for the church to connect with students. “This a good way to rebuild the relationship,” he said.

“We are almost on their campus,” Huss said, “so we want students to feel welcome if they are looking for a church home away from home.”|(217) 421-7978

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