After grabbing a sign to hold up next to a bag of food, I was skeptical that anyone in the supermarket would actually contribute their money to the food drive going on next door. As YVC volunteers, our goal was to get people shopping in the Farm Fresh, a local grocery store in Hampton, VA, to buy a ‘Mayflower Food Drive’ bag filled with food, or to simply donate food or money to the cause. We would then transport these premade donation bags to the food drive going on next-door in an open parking lot via shopping cart.
As more people passed by and declined our request to donate, I grew weary that the project was a flop. However, to my surprise, slowly but surely, people began to stop in their path to ask about our project. Strangers would read our signs, ask about our mission, and then donate from the kindness of their hearts.
Although this may seem like an extremely simple project, the profound impact it had on me as a volunteer has changed the way I serve. In awe, I saw Hampton, an area split by many different social demographics, come together to make a collective donation in this Farm Fresh. People united for one common goal: help those on the Hampton Roads Peninsula who did not have enough money to afford a Thanksgiving dinner.
I have come to the conclusion that service during the holidays benefits different groups of people, but moreover unites a community for a common goal. May it be helping the elderly with Christmas crafts, serving dinner to a group of people suffering from homelessness, or participating in holiday gift wrapping for disadvantaged youth, different social, economic, ethnic and political groups can come together to make a change.
I have come to realize, in spite of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, taking an hour or two to serve others makes a real difference, not only in the lives you serve, but also in your own life. Seeing the positive impact that service brings during this time of year puts the real meaning of the holidays back into perspective. As a youth volunteer, this creates a lasting impact and hopefully, these values will be carried on to create a more service-oriented society.
Some may think that asking for donations to support a food drive during the Thanksgiving or Christmas season may be a drag on a Saturday afternoon. But, to others, this is the meaning of the season. The holidays are not about outshining relatives or getting the best gift. They are about service-learning: bringing groups together to learn more about yourself and your community through the gift of giving.
This guest blog post was submitted by Paula-Ann Robertson.
Paula-Ann is a junior in high school and volunteers with YVC of Hampton Roads. She serves as a member on YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board.