Get a life – Get involved!

Youth involvement in community service
By Patience Still

Unoccupied with no place to go? Take a trip to your local community center and get a tip. Community service is a gateway to involvement in making a neighborhood a better place. The more people involved, the more community members are in charge of their neighborhood. Volunteering to assist neighborhood families, helping older community members and arranging community functions are good ways to form closer relationships in a neighborhood.

Many not-for-profit organizations are established to serve the community and are open to community members becoming involved in addressing the needs of a neighborhood. There are many projects and programs that community centers run, but cannot continue for lack of neighborhood involvement. Programs that can positively affect youth, education and the homebound are always being established.

Seeking out and performing community services show a genuine interest in the well being of the community. There are times when people find trash-filled porches or yards and consider them eyesores. Yet how many think that perhaps the owner is handicapped and needs assistance; a single parent working more than one job; or someone who just doesn’t know where to begin? How many who complain about the eyesores are willing to clean them up? People will accept help; others need only to step up to the door and offer it.

Most community organizations are willing to help with such cases; they just need the staff or volunteers. If there are situations you would like to see addressed, form a coalition of strongly committed peers. Gather at you local community center to discuss the proper way to arrange assistance and to reach out in your community. Community centers are likely to have a list of current projects or know of people interested in the same kinds of work that you are. These centers might also have information on other organizations with volunteers to help with community projects. Some corporations even offer volunteer services in the neighborhoods where their employees and businesses are located.

Want to find a project to work on? Giving a few hours at a community center, walking the neighborhood, and getting to know the families are options in finding out what can be done. Individuals are usually ready to point out issues that need to be addressed. Having a few peers with you shows that you have others backing you up and that you are serious about your plans. When you go to community centers, talk to the executive directors and if possible, attend a board meeting. If they have projects you’d like to be involved in, be prepared to give your input. If you are out searching the streets for projects, talk to block captains, the youth, and other block members about projects they’d like to see.

Community service is not just community projects; it’s also servicing residents. Maybe you know a teen who is homebound, troubled, or needing educational assistance; an older person who needs assistance with their shopping or home; a disabled person who may need a friend; an entrepreneur who needs startup assistance; or a single parent who works and has little time to attend to their children. (It’s always good to help around the home while they spend some special time with their children.)

Possibilities for volunteering and giving of your time are endless. The time you give to others can be rewarding and pleasant for you and its recipients. If you are willing and strong, you can succeed in making your community a more pleasant place.