By Guest Bloggers Isabelle Ginn and Allie Valaoras, High School Juniors
Students are faced with high expectations to log service hours and there are so many opportunities to serve the community. As high school juniors, we have volunteered in many capacities, though sometimes, we felt like we were adding up the number of hours we served rather than focusing on the meaning behind those hours. That’s why we founded Hearten, a 501c3 nonprofit organization focused on person-to-person volunteering. What exactly is person-to-person volunteering? It is about making direct connections and building relationships with the people we serve. We recognize that behind-the-scenes service is important, but our mission is the type of service that brings volunteers and recipients together, face to face.
Once we decided on our mission, we brainstormed, wrote our by-laws and took the necessary steps to make our organization official. Then we recruited volunteers and looked for meaningful projects.
Our first project was working with a retirement community as they introduced iPads to several hundred residents. We helped the seniors with the general use of the iPad as well as navigating the community’s own software program. We visited every week and worked one-on-one to help them load new apps, link their library accounts, search the web or adjust settings to tailor the device to their needs. A particular highlight was watching the residents’ excitement as they learned to FaceTime their grandchildren. It only took a short while to feel the impact of our work. We built wonderful bonds with the people we met and we found we got as much (or more) out of it than they did.
We also became involved with an after-school program at a local church where underprivileged kids could attend to work on homework, receive tutoring, participate in activities and eat dinner. Though the project served a very different age group than our first project, we felt the same connection. It helped us know we were on the right track and it solidified our mission. This month, we begin a new project to read to seniors who have lost the ability to read independently due to physical limitations. Our projects have focused on kids and seniors so far, but our goal is to help all ages, and maybe along the way, we’ll find a project to help animals.
We are always looking for new volunteers who are responsible and willing to bring energy to our organization. We prefer high school or upper middle school students because we often have age requirements for the projects. Additionally, we are constantly seeking new projects, so if you or your organization has a need, please visit our website and let us know. We would love to hear from you.
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