Stephanie Joiner

Freshman Seminar 2010

Community Service

Community service is one of those weird things that has a positive and a negative connotation. Some people think that community service is just a punishment you receive if you are in some sort of trouble with the law or with school. On the other hand, community service is also viewed as a wonderful way to help someone out, and give back to your community. It is honorable to actively and voluntarily participate in some sort of community service. This service can range from picking up trash along the highway, to planting trees, to helping elderly people at a nursing home. Community service is any type of service that you do for free to benefit someone else that might not be able to do it of afford to pay someone else to do it for themselves.

When I was a sophomore in high school I was very involved in a group called Student Venture. It was a group not affiliated with the school that met for things like Bible studies and short sermons that related to the time we were at in our lives. One of our main activities in the club was community service. Any time someone knew of a person or business in need, we would all jump right in to help. We did all sorts of things. A few I can remember were raking leaves and power-washing the sides of homes for families in need, raising money selling Christmas trees for the local shelter for abused women and children, and picking up trash in our local parks and recreational areas.

Out of all of the community service projects we did, though, one stood out the most for me, probably because I was the one who organized and lead the project. My mom and I have always for some reason felt a conviction to help the homeless. Every time we talk about it we say that if we ever come onto a large amount of money or happen to win the lottery, after we help our family become stable, that we would start a homeless shelter in a large area together. We are aware that some are homeless by choice, and to make an effort to reduce the number of homeless people in the country we would offer and require classes to teach the people how to live on their own. Giving out free food and providing a temporary shelter would only make people think that they can live without working or paying taxes or having a home. At our shelter we would require the people to stay for decent periods of time, and they would be required to take certain classes or attend certain seminars that would teach them simple things like how to do laundry, how to pay bills, and how to look for a apply for jobs. They would learn proper hygiene, how to cook on their own, and how to do many other seemingly simple things like cleaning and taking proper care of their children, that they might not have ever learned how to do. Some people are born in to homelessness or have been homeless for the majority of their life. With the completion of these classes they could receive certain benefits like money, job opportunities, or extended time at the shelter. Once they ¬†knew everything they needed to know to comfortably live on their own we would help them get a start with looking for a job and finding a home and would help them start their new lives! I told my mom that I knew that there was still so much that could be done without the money it would cost to open our own shelter and went searching. I went to the homeless shelter in town and was shocked by what I discovered. The Samaritan Outreach Homeless Shelter was the only shelter in West Plains, MO, with a population of more than 15,000, and the shelter could only comfortably house 13 people. 13!!!! Also, the shelter could rarely except men or women with children, because their facility was not safe or prepared for them. They would only except children if they were above a certain age and could generally take care of themselves. They also had very little food and clothing to provide their guests, and their building was an old victorian-style home that was literally falling apart. From the outside you could see missing or protruding boards and siding and many holes in the roof and sides of the house. The utilities in the house were old and rarely worked properly, if they worked at all. I knew I could do something to help so I talked with my Student Venture leader and he said that he would definitely help and encourage others in the group to do so as well. I organized and ran a food and clothing drive at my high school for the shelter and it was a HUGE success. We expected to not receive much outcome from the students but at the end of the drive we were proven wrong. We had received more food than would even fit in the home’s pantry and so much clothing that we had to result in stacking the bags on the porch because there was no other place for them, and even then we filled the porch and it overflowed with bags out onto the ground. I got to meet a lot of the residents of the home and they were so grateful for everything we did. They were filled with expressions of joy and happiness and thanked us multiple times for our service to them. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I will never forget how great I felt for helping those people. Everyone should experience that feeling at some time in their life.