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Ashleigh A

 

Ashleigh Alves

Gemillut Hasadim – What I Learned from My Community Service

Once I started attending Hebrew school, I never imagined community service being a part of my everyday life. Gemillut Hasadim, tzedakah, charity, and the act of loving-kindness describe how community service impacts my everyday life. When I started volunteering, I thought community service revolved around tiresome work, such as manual labor and filling out hours on a paper. However, once I started volunteering even more, the tiresome work turned to work that I found that I enjoyed.

            My first experience volunteering was with my camp in the summer; every Thursday we went to the community bank, nursing home, or cleaned up around the campgrounds. Cleaning up the camp allowed me to give back to the community that I was a part of since I was 6 years old. Going to the nursing home provided the residents with company that they looked forward to and hoped to have every day, and going to the community bank provided the needy with meals and proper nutrition.

            What I found was that I wanted to do even more within the community. In eighth grade my brother suggested I volunteer at an organization called Challenger. At Challenger, special needs children participate in three seasons of sporting activities including soccer, basketball, and baseball. The volunteers shadow the children, helping them play the sport. Challenger allows these children to feel included in sports that they might not otherwise be able to participate in at school because they “aren’t good enough.” For two and a half years, I have followed around five different kids, each having a different challenge. This allowed me to experience these different challenges and how to deal with different situations.

            Realizing that I love working with children with special needs, my mom’s best friend suggested that I volunteer at another organization, called Friendship Circle. Once I did the research, I found two activities I could do within the organization. The first activity called Friends at Home, allowed me, along with Jenny Beutel, to spend time at a child’s home and hangout with them for an hour, doing whatever they wanted to do. This activity showed me how much these children crave friendships. Whenever one of the volunteers visits these children’s eyes instantly light up and they become so ecstatic to see us. The other activity that I do, as part of Friendship Circle, is called Sunday Circle. Every week the children do four activities, such as art, zumba, yoga, music, karate, or even play on the playground. My buddy, Matt, who I shadow along with Jenny Beutel, gets very excited to see us whenever we walk through the door. I clearly remember one time when his mom came up to us and explained that during the week he would not stop talking about Sunday Circle or us. Seeing him smile and laugh, remembering our names, and wanting to hug us, makes me realize that just hanging out with him every week, gives him and the rest of the kids something to look forward to.

Community service has become not only something that I am required to do but is something that I truly enjoy doing. The more I dedicate my time to community service, the more giving back has become a part of my personality. To me, community service is learning life lessons through hands-on experiences and gaining the satisfaction of helping those who may not be one hundred percent like us. I know that community service has shaped me into being an open-minded and compassionate person with a big heart and a willingness to give up my time to provide a positive experience for others.