This semester I engaged in multiple service learning, volunteer opportunities both within and outside of DSWS activities. Outside of DSWS I participated in Community Commitment as a part of Welcome Week. My group was assigned to Goodwill and participated in 5 hours of volunteering. While assigned at Goodwill we provided help by taking out clothes that were no longer in season and moving them to the storage facility in the back. We also took in season clothing and arranged them by size on new racks that we put together to make it easier for shoppers to find the items they are looking for. The Goodwill that we were stationed at had also just received some large donations of different types of books. We were put in charge of sorting the books by age group and neatly putting the books on the shelves where they belong. Overall, our mission was to move items around and put them away in order for shoppers to better find what they are looking for, and make the store look better put together. As Goodwill relies on volunteers to help in the stores that way they have less paid employees to keep the costs down, it was important for such a large group of us to go volunteer in their store and complete tasks that would have taken their employees much longer to do. By us going in and helping them they could focus on other tasks within the store.
Another activity that I participated in was Pack Shack, which was 3 hours of packing dry, bagged meals to be shipped to food banks throughout Ohio. Our group was put on measuring the already filled bags and then sealing them in to be boxed for shipping. This particular volunteering opportunity supplied food to those that may not have a reliable source of food or ways to prepare and save fresh food. As a whole we were responsible for packing 100,000 meals for the foodbank in just a few hours that would have taken volunteers probably days to complete. By volunteering for this event we were able to quickly prepare meals for to help people in Ohio from going hungry and taking the burden off of employees. It was nice that at this event a whole group of DSWS people went together so we could work at the station together and talk to each other while we were working.
The Columbus Marathon was my favorite volunteering opportunity because we were able to interact with so many different people. The Columbus Marathon through Nationwide Children’s Hospital consisted of 6 hours of service that included setting up water and Gatorade stations and then passing them out to the runners. The best part about volunteering for the marathon was being able to cheer on the runners as they passed our water station. I have always been involved in sports and competitions so I understand how uplifting it is to have someone cheering you on so it was cool to be able to provide the encouragement to the people running. Given the water station that we were at people were only a little over half way so it was important for us to help them so they had the energy to keep running. This is an event that I anticipate on participating in again in the future, especially because of the atmosphere and then having the chance to listen to the director talk at the meeting after the event.
I also participated in the DSWS Day of Service this semester for 5 hours of service as well. For this event my group was assigned to the Columbus Dream Center. The Dream Center is an organization that provides meals, clothing, supplies, and services such as laundry and showers for homeless or underprivileged individuals and families in the Columbus area. While at the Dream Center we were split into three different groups to prepare for their Thanksgiving dinner event for the community. I was in their donation room sorting socks, hanging and sorting coats, and preparing hygiene bags to be given out to those that were in need when they came into the center. They mostly need us there in order to organize their closet of donations in order to keep up with the supply that they had. This was a job that would have taken the few employees that they had much longer to complete than the group of us that were doing it. After we cleaned up the Dream Center location, we walked around the neighborhoods surrounding the center passing out flyers to advertise for the Thanksgiving dinner event that they were hosting. By passing out flyers were were making people aware of the event that they were holding so they could get a hot, cooked meal.
Service learning has taught me how to better serve my community and be an advocate for change. The biggest thing that it taught me was to be aware of what I have. So many of the places that I volunteered at served an underprivileged community in the Columbus community. At the places that I volunteered I saw that people were donating clothing and other items that they had obviously paid a large amount of money for. Seeing this made me appreciate what I have because there are people that do not have the same opportunities that I do. It also showed me that there are certain items like socks or a winter coat that we take advantage of. These are items that I do not think about not having because I have never faced that trouble, but there are people that do not have these things and rely on the donations of others to be prepared. This taught me that as a leader it is important to not judge people before you get to know them because you never know their background or what they might be going through. It also taught me that being a leader means that you must be an advocate for everyone, including those that are different from you, as well as being an advocate for diversity and inclusion.