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How to Start a Community Service Program at Your Youth Activity Center

Community service may be defined by many as a non-paying job performed by one person or a group of people for the benefit of their community or its institutions. It is distinct from volunteering, since community service is not always performed on a voluntary basis.

Community service:

  • has a way of leveling the playing field and defining diversity.
  • is need-driven, not convenience-driven.
  • is often not about what is the best for you but is about what you can do to make things better for someone who is less fortunate.
  • is a core activity for socially responsible organizations all over the world.
  • differs from volunteering, since it is not always performed on a voluntary basis.

Community service is a great thing for individuals to do. In fact, volunteering helps you to feel healthier and happier as a person by connecting you to others and bringing fun and fulfillment to your life. Community service is good for your emotional well-being and your physical health. Believe it or not, doing community service can also advance your career!

These amazing benefits are amplified when you participate in community service as a group. You have the experience of being part of something large scale with very visible results. It’s a great benefit to our society that companies participate heavily in community service because of the benefits they get in return.

In addition to making their employees happy and being a part of maintaining their personal benefits of volunteering, companies set themselves apart with increased customer loyalty. Nielson published a report in 2015 on Global Corporate Sustainability that shows 66% of consumers are willing to spend more if what they’re buying comes from a socially responsible company.

Why are Community Service programs good for youth activity centers to implement?

As a youth activity center, community service is important for 4 basic reasons:

1. They provide your students, parents and employees with opportunities to give back

Having ways to give back out of your good fortune is more important to your emotional well-being than you may think.

Studies by several noted institutions (the University of the South, Women’s Philanthropy Institute and International Journal of Psychophysiology) share data behind the positive impact giving back has on participants. And your center can provide these community service opportunities that give participants surges in happiness, lower blood pressure and greater satisfaction with your life.

2. They add service-oriented appeal to your youth activity center

Did you know that, when provided, people will choose to do business with those who do good for others, so your center gains a new differentiator by adding community service to your activities.

A Deloitte study on volunteering shows that 62% of 18 to 26-year-olds polled said they would prefer to work at a place where they can participate in volunteer opportunities.

3. They inspire a balanced perspective of the community and the world

Community service brings people together from all walks of life, enabling all to experience broader knowledge of the community around them. Involving children helps them to learn from an early age that not everyone is like they are and that’s OK.

Through community service opportunities, your center can offer students, parents and employees the experiences of:

    • helping people they know and don’t know.
    • being active contributors to the greater good.
    • having a sense of purpose in the community and world.
    • sharpening people skills for all who participate.
    • haining experiences that will help them as they navigate their future.

4. They really do help those served

The popular belief about volunteering is that the volunteers are the only ones getting helped is false. People who are served by community service volunteers ARE helped.

GoAbroad.com reminds us that community service:

    • reveals that volunteers make little things count, truly believing that no task is too small to help someone. They put their hearts into making each one happen.
    • gives volunteers a way to fill the gaps as extra hands, love, and commitment. Volunteers make a difference by making sure that as many needs as possible are met.
    • enables volunteers to provide comfort and support to all people when they need it most.

How do you get Community Service started at your youth activity center?

It’s really simple to get your youth activity center involved in community service.
Here are 4 easy steps to give you some guidelines for your center!

1. Pick a charity to help

Maybe a local charity would be a good choice. Make it relative. If your center is mostly girls, maybe you could reach out to a women’s shelter or offer help to your local food bank.

Discuss the options you select with your management team so you can talk through how you will incorporate your center’s mission and integrate hands-on work into employee work schedules. Decide if you want to donate time or money? If you choose money, how will you raise it? Social media (discussed in more detail below) is a powerful tool for raising money.

2. Reach out to the charity you select

Most charities welcome help and will be excited to schedule a meeting with you. Show up with ideas – but listen more than you talk so you understand how you can be the most help. Don’t be stuck on your plan but open to changing ideas so you can meet their needs.

3. Choose a cadence for your program

How often do you want community service activities to happen? Once a year? Once a month? Once a quarter? Once charity? Multiple charities? Be realistic about time and financial limits. Start small and then build on it.

4. Help out for the good it does

Community service isn’t something that you should start calculating a revenue stream for. There is no return on investment here. You’re giving back for the greater good and that is what will be recognized by others for doing.

Social media enables you to go crazy promoting what you’re doing! Everyone loves pictures of kids doing anything! You have your smartphone with you 24/7 so sharing your news with your followers who will like, share, tweet and retweet it will distribute your activities out to everyone – or just those you choose – in minutes to raise money or awareness for your charity.

Here’s some food for thought:

Start small, start somewhere – and grow it – and you’ll see how rewarding participating in community service will be for your center.

If you are already active in your local community, let us know how you are giving back in the comments below!

About the Author:

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After studying graphic design at the University of Georgia, Jill held several positions in media and marketing including Art Director, Editor and Marketing Director. As a student of dance, she has spent plenty of time in children’s activity centers and puts that experience to work for her in the work she does with Jackrabbit. In addition to her interest in dance, Jill also enjoys sports, gourmet cooking, entertaining, singing and spoiling her five grandchildren.

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