My community service story began five years ago during a visit to our local homeless shelter. While dropping off some donations that my Girl Scout Troop had collected, I met a sweet little boy who was turning 3 years old. He was excited about our visit because he thought the donations we were carrying were for his birthday. I felt so bad that we didn’t have anything for him, so I asked the Director of the shelter if he was having a party.
I learned that day that the shelter did not have any programs in place to provide birthday parties for the kids staying there. While I understood the basic needs of the children needed to come first, I also felt strongly that special occasions like birthdays needed to be shared and celebrated! That’s why I started my own birthday program called the “Hopeful Hearts Club”.
My Club organizes birthday parties for every child who celebrates a birthday while living at the shelter. We also provide welcome bags (filled with a new blanket, pillow case, hygiene products and a stuffed animal) to every child who walks in the door. We also organize family dinners, fun events and holiday celebrations. From Easter Egg hunts, to backyard barbecues, to Halloween costume parties… you name it, we’ve done it!
It takes a lot of work and community support, however, it’s been an incredible journey that has taught me so much about myself and the needs of others. We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, and when you are actively involved in helping the less fortunate in your community, you start to realize how true this statement really is.
I have been given the incredible opportunity to see families during the most difficult moments in their lives. While it’s hard sometimes to see the fear in a child’s eyes or the worry on a parent’s face, it’s also an incredible gift to be able to ease that burden just a little bit.
Lots of people ask me to give advice to other kids about how to start a community service project. That’s always tough for me because I honestly believe that helping others is not about following a list of instructions, it’s about following your heart. Everyone has the ability to make a difference in the world by looking inside themselves. Just focus on your talents, your gifts; the things that make you genuine and unique, and use them to help others.
Do you like to bake? Maybe you could make sweet treats and deliver them to a homeless shelter. Do you like animals? Perhaps you could visit the animal shelter in your community and offer to take the dogs for a walk. Do you love to knit or sew? You could use your talent to make warm blankets and donate them to a nursing home. Whatever you do, don’t worry too much about the details and don’t think you have to help a million people. Just get out there and help who you can. Remember, if you touch the life of just one person, you have already changed the world!
If you want to help others, just take the first step and see where your heart leads you. Make it personal. Make it special. Make it a part of who you are. I promise your community service project will lead you on an incredible journey!