Three years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The week-long event, sponsored by the FFA Organization, set aside one day for volunteering at a local organization. My group was assigned to pick collard greens at a farm right outside of town. The farm grew products that could be picked by local residents or volunteers, and the food was given to the less fortunate in the D.C. area.
For two hours my group picked collard greens under the 90-degree heat from the sun. With tears in their eyes, the women we picked the greens for thanked us profusely for what we were doing. The feeling of humbleness, happiness and a deep sense of comfort overwhelmed me at this moment. We had done something worthwhile, something that would help others who were too poor to feed themselves.
When you think of community service, do you think of it as an act of service, or as a chore, something you have to do?
At MU, students in Greek life are required to volunteer two to three hours a month for their philanthropy.
“I volunteered at the local food bank with my Sigma Nu fraternity brothers,” said Jimmy Michaels, a sophomore at MU studying business marketing. “I did it because it was a way of volunteering in which I could immediately make an impact within the community.”
“I knew exactly what it was going to and benefitting,” Michaels said. “It was also not extremely labor intensive.”
Some students view volunteering as a task, something they are forced to do. This is a bad outlook on something that is good for everyone who does it. Volunteering is a great opportunity that everyone should experience. The feeling is unlike any other. Many college, job and scholarship applications can be greatly enhanced if a student has volunteering hours on their resume.
Brooke Purnell, an MU sophomore majoring in textile and apparel management, volunteered during her free time last summer at a local animal shelter in Kansas City, Mo.
“I helped with both dogs and cats. I had to refill their food dishes, clean out the kitty litter boxes, and play with the cats and take the dogs out for walks,” said Purnell. “I actually had a lot of fun doing it.”
Volunteering is a wonderful activity that helps you assist others and yourself. It can enhance your career, connect you to others and fulfill a part of your life.
“The reason I did it in the first place is because I needed a sort of ‘puppy fix,’” Purnell said. “Helping out with these abandoned cats and dogs just made me feel really good about myself; knowing that I was giving them love and attention that they never had in the first place.”
Volunteering at an animal shelter can give students the opportunity to fill the void left by not being at home with their family pets.
“I don’t think people should just do it because they have to, because then you’re not going to have fun,” Purnell said. “Volunteering shouldn’t feel like an obligation, it should feel like something you want to do for others.”
Purnell plans on volunteering at the animal shelter again over winter break.
“If you feel obligated to play with cats and dogs, you won’t have any fun,” Purnell said. “Honestly, who doesn’t like to play with puppies and kittens?”
So the question is, do you volunteer because you have to or because it’s the right thing to do? Students should make it a priority to volunteer in their free time around Columbia or during breaks back at home. Volunteering looks good on resumes, and community service is an activity an employer may look at.
I promise those long hours dishing out food, giving animals baths or even just going to your local nursing home to cheer up the elderly will provide you with the most rewarding feeling you will ever have.