Contributing to Your Community Through Service
- Erin McRee The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
- 2004 5 May
...but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
When I was four, I remember doing a Christmas dance recital at a retirement home with my dance class. I don't think we were very good, but I remember the older folks looking happy and it made me feel happy too. I loved passing out the candy canes when we finished the dance and I think at the end of that evening, everyone had a warm feeling inside.
Community service is just a good thing because of the benefits it gives the receiver, provider of the opportunity, and the volunteer. Many people are in need of basic things such as food and shelter; others such as the elderly or the sick could use a helping hand with the things in their daily lives. People who create opportunities for others to serve can help students learn about their community and to gain knowledge from experienced people. The volunteer has a chance to meet new people, obtain new skills and can have the satisfaction of doing a job well. Unexpected benefits could be discovering a talent you didn't know you had and maybe even learning more about your community and its history.
A homeschool student can find projects in many different places. The first place you can check is your homeschool group to see if they can offer any ideas for service. Consider volunteering to be in charge of an essay contest for homeschool students. You can collect a small fee and use it as prize money for the winners. Another idea is to create a homeschool Olympics; this could be a field day with different types of races such as the 100 yard dash, three-legged races, relay races, and other activities. You and a group of friends can volunteer to organize a fundraiser such as a bake sale, silent auction, or a homeschool talent show. Also check with the neighbors on your street and offer to help with yard work such as planting trees, painting a fence, or mowing the lawn. Neighbors may appreciate pet care, babysitting, and taking food to new moms as well. Often the elderly can use help with things around the house or someone to shop for groceries at the store. Cairen Wealand, a 14-year-old homeschool student, has some ideas for community service:
There are various home school groups that often have pamphlets on local community activities and often your city will have a community program where you can register for a newsletter informing you of community projects. There are the Candy Stripers who help out in hospitals, usually comforting patients, reading stories to children and general visitation. . . Local churches provide activities such as Habitat for Humanity which helps out by building houses for the homeless. [Churches also have] "hosting" which is making and serving dinners and delivering the meals to shut-ins and those unable to provide a meal for themselves. There are occasions where the youth gather to sing to the residents at a local nursing home and to simply encourage them, too.
Some churches offer a food box program where people donate food to give away to whoever needs it. Be sure to check about age limits when you volunteer. For example, you have to be 14 years old or older to be able to be a Candy Striper.
Consider volunteering in areas where you have an interest. For example, if you like plants, you can plant a garden for your community or church. If you like carpentry, you can make or repair picnic tables and benches. If you are good at needlework, try making quilts and afghans to give away. Many homeschoolers are quite good at computer work and could offer their services to public service companies or non-profit groups that need help with web page development, publicity, maintaining of databases, transporting of equipment, video production, designing a logo, proofreading documents, building projects – the ideas are endless!
Be sure to record your community service projects. Mrs. Holly Craw of the Covenant Home School Resource Center in Phoenix, Arizona suggests:
. . . [using] a loose leaf notebook with dividers for each type of job or for each location. Record in a journal or list the types of tasks done in one column. Have another column for details [such as] location, supervisor, people supervised, [and the] role of [your] job in the overall organization. List the times worked in the next section and [your] comments [such as:] What was fun? What was challenging? What did you learn? What would you do differently? How did this opportunity make a difference in your life and for others? Ask the agency to provide or sign off on a time log and also have them write letters of commendation describing duties, character, contribution, etc. . .
Students as young as middle school can begin collecting other items besides community service records for a resume. Anything that documents jobs, talents, and projects can be included. Recording your interests, leadership skills, and goals is also a good idea. When discussing resumes, Mrs. Craw says to "treat the community service as importantly as a paid job in terms of promptness, attitude, completing tasks on time, [and] seeking to build up others rather than undermine. . ." Think about including your resume in a college application or a portfolio of your high school work. Also, if you are planning on going to college, service hours can help you in obtaining a scholarship.
Although community service is a good way to add to your academic records, more importantly, it really is a great opportunity for a person to find ways to help others out of this goodness of his own heart and to create lots of that wonderful warm feeling for everyone involved.
Erin McRee is the Junior Investigative Reporter for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Copyright, 2004. All rights reserved. Right now, 19 free gifts at The Old Schoolhouse. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com