Hope College senior Luke Eastburg of Grand Rapids, has been honored for his dedication to raising support for disabled children in South Africa by the West Michigan Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

He received the chapter's "President's Award," presented for extraordinary commitment to service to community, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, during the group's celebration of National Philanthropy Day. The event was held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

Eastburg, a pre-medical student at Hope who is a 2007 graduate of Forest Hills Central High School, has played a leadership role in establishing the Itsoseng Project on behalf of the Itsoseng Center for Disabled Children located in rural South Africa in the small town of Phuthaditjhaba, about three hours' drive from Johannesburg.

The center, established by a community member, Merriam Matjele, cares for 25 abandoned children who have a variety of mental and physical disabilities, but operates with extremely limited resources.  Eastburg became moved by the children's plight and the center's needs during three months serving at the center while spending the spring in South Africa.

Back in West Michigan, he worked with his parents, Mark and Susan Eastburg, to set up an advisory board on the center's behalf.  Through their church, Thornapple Covenant Church, they set up an account through which financial donations can be made to help meet a variety of needs.  The priorities for the funds include adding beds and waterproof sleeping mats for the children (the center only has three beds and non-waterproof mats); new toilets to replace the two leaking toilets in the center; two showers (the center currently has none, and the only bathtub is needed for washing clothing); a washing machine (all laundry is currently done by hand); and a vehicle suitable for transporting the children to the hospital for treatment of their various conditions (the center currently only has an open-bed pick-up truck).

During the college's Christmas break, Luke and Mark Eastburg will return to the center to oversee some construction projects and to film the children so that they can be assessed by a physical therapist in Grand Rapids.

"The Grand Rapids Press" featured Eastburg's experiences in a story on Saturday, Aug. 14.  More information about the center and the fund-raising effort on its behalf is available online at:  http://itsosengproject.com/

Other 2010 award recipients honored on Tuesday, Nov. 9, were: Robert Berkhof, receiving the Benjamin Franklin Award for an Outstanding Fundraising Professional; Thomas S. and Mickie Fox, receiving the Distinguished Philanthropist award; the Mill Steel Company, receiving the Outstanding Corporation award; and Tom Edmonds, receiving the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser award.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents more than 28,000 fundraisers in 185 chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs. The Association fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession. The AFP West Michigan Chapter has more than 200 members.