Volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community and help those around you. My first experience of volunteering for a community service agency was when I was an ornery teenager entering high school. My father and I were asked to visit 2-3 families of our church each and every month. This “job” as I saw it, consisted of watching over these families and providing them with help as they required of it. This help could include anything from offering emotional support to performing manual labor. At the time, I didn’t enjoy taking the hours out of my day to do this; you may even say I dreaded it. As I continued to serve fellow church members in my community, I began to mature and in turn, I began to enjoy it more and more. I came to recognize the act of volunteering as a civic responsibility and, as a Christian, my duty to God. Through completing these responsibilities, I gain a sense of fulfillment and happiness in my life, knowing that I am helping to improve the life of another human being.
Another volunteer experience I had was at a Boy Scout camp last summer. This camp was just taking shape and was in desperate need of basic necessities. A group of us older scouts worked many hours over the course of a week to improve the grounds by transporting gravel from the river bed to the camp trails and pulling up foul-smelling lily pads out of the lake so that these parts of the camp could be used that year and many years to come. Because it rained for most of the week, we could have easily settled for less than our best effort. I however felt a sense of pride in the work I put forth and seeing the project through to the end. It felt good to watch younger scouts take advantage of what we made possible.
I am grateful I have the time and ability to contribute to my community. It truly makes me appreciate everything I have been given and it makes me more willing to give back to those who are less fortunate than I am. Volunteering provides me with a new perspective on my life, by seeing the trials and struggles of others that I am able to help them overcome through my service.
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My volunteer work is my passion. From a young age, I began looking through volunteer manuals, awaiting for the day I finally turned 13 or 14, the age required by most organizations for their volunteers. Since I was unable to volunteer with established organizations, I took it upon myself to start my own small volunteer projects, which later expanded into much larger projects.
The majority of my free time is split between planning and organizing Relay for Life and volunteering and organizing drives for the homeless shelter. I started volunteering at the Hope Center Homeless Outreach Center four years ago. When I first started volunteering there, I noticed that many of the clients carried all of their personal belongings in just a plastic shopping bag. This prompted my first collection of backpacks from friends and family. Each year after, the project has grown bigger and bigger. In recent years, my backpack drive has expanded because I have emailed every principal and guidance counselor in …….. County asking for his or her school‚ support and help in collecting backpacks for their students. I have also visited schools the past two years and spoken to participating classes about homelessness and how they can help. Since I started, the schools have helped me to collect over 4,000 backpacks! Each year, I return to my first passion, and fill 300 of these backpacks with donated toiletries and distribute them to the homeless in November. In the past two years, I have expanded my project to provide these backpacks filled with school supplies to low-income students as well. This year, I worked with five schools in …… County to provide over 1,200 new and gently used backpacks filled with school supplies, to their needy and appreciative students.
With each project I complete, another project always stems off of it. At the beginning, every time that I volunteered at the homeless feedings, I would bring different requested items with me, such as sneakers in a certain size, work boots, a hat, razors, or other necessities for those who live on the streets. These small contributions led to me starting ‚ Sneakers for the Homeless where I have collected over 1,000 pairs of sneakers (about 350 each time) and donated them to the homeless shelter for the past three years. Every time that I bring sneakers, I also try to bring a bike to raffle off.
My volunteer activities have allowed the homeless and less fortunate to be less alienated from society. Through Backpacks for School Children, I have given students the resources to allow them success in school and hopefully success in life. With the homeless, backpacks allow them to walk the streets or look for a job while maintaining a professional look and keeping their possessions safe.
This year, I started including younger students in the planning and implementing stages of my projects so the projects will continue after I graduate high school.
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