Off School, On Service
By: Kathryn Rhea
Parents have been coached that it is their duty to expose their children to a variety of activities and experiences in order for the kids to find their passions. So they immerse their youngsters into a wide array of activities, such as soccer, baseball, choir and more. However, parents must remember it is important to also encourage children to give their time and talents to others.
Instilling a desire to make meaningful contributions can easily be taught by incorporating volunteering into after-school time or during the summer. Parents can take those steps in hopes that children will continue community involvement when they become adults, too.
10 for Tupelo
A great way to get involved in service is volunteering with friends. Not only is it fun, but there is power in numbers. 10 for Tupelo is a great way to get family and friends on board. This is how it works: gather a team of ten people willing to participate, sign up, commit ten hours of your time to community service – litter cleanups and beautification projects in Tupelo. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, April 21 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm in Fairpark.
Jesse Bandre started 10 for Tupelo four years ago as an opportunity for the citizens of Tupelo to clean up their parks, streets and neighborhoods. Bandre explains, “The level of impact that one event can make depends on the number of citizens that participate. We encourage everyone to get involved in some capacity, as we all work to embody the Tupelo Spirit.”
Volunteering at the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society demonstrates making a difference while fostering a love of animals. Walking dogs, interacting with cats, assisting with laundry and washing food bowls are some of the tasks that are needed daily. Volunteers under 16 years old must have a parent or a guardian present, which makes it a perfect opportunity to spend quality time together.
Getting involved in your neighborhood association is another way how your family can make a difference. Leslie Mart, of the Joyner Neighborhood Association in Tupelo, says there are numerous opportunities to volunteer, including helping maintain public spaces by weeding flowerbeds, planting flowers and providing general cleanup. She also adds, “We have many elderly residents who can benefit from someone doing odd jobs or yard work. Some may also appreciate having kids read the newspaper or a book. That really would be a win-win-win!”
Instilling a love of community doesn’t have to be coordinated through a specific organization. Seeing a need and acting on it will encourage children to not sit on the sidelines, but jump right in. Identifying a littered area and taking a trash bag and gloves to clean it up teaches children about the importance of keeping our surroundings clean and taking good care of the world around us. Taking pictures before and after is a good idea, as it would show results of the effort, and would serve as a good illustration to the lesson.
Resource for Volunteers
There are many individuals who would love to volunteer, but aren’t sure where they are needed. Albine Bennett, CREATE Foundation Communications Director, says, “It has become evident that there is a need for a centralized hub for volunteer opportunities in our area. The idea started small, but has evolved into a partnership between CREATE Foundation and United Way of Northeast Mississippi, and so the Volunteer Northeast Mississippi hub was born. Volunteer NEMS will make it easier to connect volunteers and organizations, benefiting both!”
Volunteer Northeast Mississippi’s mission is to develop, promote, and support volunteerism for Benton-Alcorn-Tippah-Prentiss-Tishomingo-Union-Lee-Itawamba-Pontotoc-Chickasaw Counties. It serves as a connector of people and agencies with needs and services within our communities.
Whether it is volunteering for an organization or on your own, treating each day as a journey creates life-long memories for families and gives opportunities for learning through experiences while giving back.
• Keep Tupelo Beautiful, 10 for Tupelo organizer, works to inspire & educate residents to improve the community by preventing litter, promoting recycling and beautification. They encourage all citizens to be responsible for improving the city’s scenic beauty & quality of life. www.facebook.com/KeepTupeloBeautiful/
• Volunteer Northeast Mississippi www.volunteernems.org
Kathryn Rhea resides in Tupelo with her husband Harris and two children, Clayton and Charles. She instills in her children the importance of making the community a better place.