By Troy Okum, VISTA serving at Shippensburg University
Community service can come in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is as simple as helping your neighbor shovel snow off of their sidewalk or it can be more intricate, like organizing a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. Whatever the case may be, service to others, especially to strangers, is the glue that keeps a community together so that all of its members can thrive.
It is human nature to want to help others, but one problem people often face is how they can get involved. Many organizations and people are in need of support, but in a busy world that is flooded with distractions it hard to cut through the clatter and be heard. This is especially true in a college town, where students are unfamiliar with the community and can be easily separated from it.
Rest assured though, when there is a will to help and serve others, there is always a way to do so. Like many schools, Shippensburg University (SU) organizes events through its community engagement office to create a link between the campus and local populations. Perhaps the greatest of these events is the Fall Day of Service, which allows eager volunteers to serve Shippensburg in both big and small ways.
More than 300 SU community members participated in the second annual Fall Day of Service on Sept. 8 to help dozens of organizations throughout the area.
The day of service is a chance for SU students to work alongside faculty, staff, and alumni to serve the greater Shippensburg region. Community service projects included cleaning and maintaining places like the rails to trails and a historic cemetery, while other volunteers traveled to farm fields to glean watermelons, (which yielded about 10,000 pounds of produce!).
And of course, when there is any community service project it is likely a VISTA won’t be too far away.
In this case, the SU Social Work Department and AmeriCorps VISTA Troy Okum teamed up to organized a car wash to raise money for the Hound Packs Program. The Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition’s Hound Packs Program provides weekend meals for public school students suffering from food insecurity. Despite a cool, rainy day, the car wash raised $75, which is enough to feed 12 students for one weekend.
AmeriCorps VISTA Jamie Burnett and VISTA Leader Danelle Wagner helped by assembling flood buckets at one of the community partners, Mission Central.
The Fall Day of service provided hundreds of hours of community service and helped bring awareness to many issues and causes throughout the region. The event also helped spark new relationships between SU and the community as some volunteers are returning to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Hound Packs to continue serving them.
For the AmeriCorps VISTAs though, it wasn’t just any other day of volunteering. While VISTAs often work behind the scenes, (organizing and managing projects, and not getting in the trenches) they made a point of rolling up their sleeves during this time of the year to commemorate the volunteers who responded to the September 11 terror attacks.
VISTAs participated in the 9/11 Day of Service in a variety of ways, simple and intricate, big and small, but the size and shape doesn’t matter. Their service is about honoring those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their community and country so that all people can share in a common good. In their memory, VISTAs carry a great legacy wherever they may go.
Welcome to the CCNYPA*VISTA Blog, written for VISTAs, by VISTAs!