Public Service Powered by the Cheerful Giver
September 28, 2016 by mitchellcohen
Thanks to the Cheerful Giver Fund of Central Carolina Community Foundation, high schools across the Midlands of South Carolina — in Richland, Lexington, Orangeburg, and Clarendon Counties — are able to participate in Students In Action (SIA), a program that drives teenagers to become leaders in their schools and communities by helping them discover the issues they care about and providing tools for maximum measurable impact.
Last year these students volunteered over 50,400 hours, raised $31,000 dollars toward their causes, and engaged 2,775 of their peers to join them in volunteering.Below are a few of our favorite service stories from the Midlands, told by the students who led them.
As more than 90% of families in our school district (Lexington 4) are living below the poverty level, we feel that providing food assistance is the most important thing we can do. The nearest food pantry is nearly 30 minutes away, and transportation is a big problem for many of our families.
Previously, we primarily served families of students who attended the high school. Our goal for this year was to reach even more families at more schools in our district. We reached out to our community through networking, public speaking engagements, newsletters, newspapers, and writing letters. We were able to raise nearly $21,000! Overwhelmed with excitement, we decided to reach out to the youngest members of our school district, the 3-5 year-olds who attend our Early Childhood Center. They had lost the funding for their weekend backpack program, and had students in need of food. We sent letters at the beginning of the school year to offer food pantry assistance. This resulted in 40 additional families who came to us for food twice a month.
As word spread about our efforts, all of the schools in our district held a food and toiletry drive, resulting in more than 9,000 items being donated. In addition, Paul Kirby, the editor of the South West Lexington Ledger wrote a story about our efforts. He also raised funds and coordinated with Carolina Meats to use those funds to purchase meat at a reduced rate, which was then donated to the pantry.
Later, we were approached by Frances Mack Intermediate School for backpack assistance. We are now filling 25 backpacks a week for those students to give them food over the weekend. One unique aspect of our food pantry is that it is run primarily by the students, who obtain job skills through service.
In meeting our broader objective of multi-generational outreach and addressing the second leg of our three-pronged approach to service, our SIA Team members have made it our mission to minister to the needs of senior citizens by engaging with the P.A.C.E (Provides All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) Program. The goal of partnering with the P.A.C.E Program is to let the seniors know that they are appreciated, valued, and not forgotten. This is not only beneficial for the senior citizens, but for the students as well. Working with the elderly of the P.A.C.E Program has been an ongoing project that we have thoroughly enjoyed and hope to continue in the future.
In October of 2015, our SIA team along with students from our school, escorted the senior citizens to the South Carolina State Fair for a day of socializing and relaxation. We broke into groups, two teens per senior, and walked around the fairgrounds showing them the rides and asking them questions about themselves and their interests. Our most recent planned activity with the senior citizens was to take them to the zoo, but due to inclement weather, we took them to the mall instead. The seniors made the mall trip something to remember! We visited various stores and showed the seniors what was “hip” nowadays. The members of our SIA team expected the seniors to shun away from all the flashy and eccentric clothing displayed, but they surprisingly embraced everything with joyous attitudes. It seemed like the seniors were simply interested in being out, and having a good time with us. Because of the relationships we have fostered, future plans include a “Senior’s Prom.” This event will give us another opportunity to spend time with the seniors and give them a night of nostalgia.
Our SIA team learned the importance of helping others. Most of the students were unaware of the many needs of people in the community. They saw the need to help these individuals when they saw and experienced a natural disaster when the flood hit our area hard. It was sad as people relocated to shelters and watch the water destroy their belongings. Our service project to collect donations for flood victims allowed the community to see that we are being taught to give to others without expecting anything in return and that we do care about them. Our organization thoroughly discussed the strategies for helping to provide help to needy families. Many of the people we helped were our closest neighbors and family. Everyone experiences hardship at some point and our SIA team is glad to be of assistance.