While volunteering is a big aspect of my life now, it wasn’t something that I have always been a part of. Before seventh grade, I did not understand the significance of volunteering. I look back and realize that I was naive to think that people, not only around the world, but around me, were struggling. Of course I knew that everyone had their own lives, but to me, everyone in and around Salem were all the same: everyone had houses, jobs, and a stable living environment. It was in 2017 when my civics teacher assigned a year-long volunteer project. The goal of the assignment was to participate in twelve community service projects and then write about how each encounter affected you. I remember being so stressed about the assignment because I did not think I could find twelve projects. For half the year, I completed the assignments, but did not really see the effects of it first hand. It wasn’t until I was given the opportunity to volunteer hands-on at the Community Christmas Store in Roanoke that I got to see the impact that volunteering could have. When my mom first introduced the idea, I was quick to agree. I was apprehensive because I didn’t know what to expect, but I was also excited because I knew that I would get to meet people in the community. Before attending the event, I researched all of the items that they were asking for. Seeing that they were asking for things that I took for granted every day made my heart ache. Essentials like jeans, shirts, socks, shoes, hats, and even coats were something that not everyone was fortunate enough to have. After making my own list of all the items that they were asking for, my mom and I went to stores to buy as much as we could. I remember we went to store after store, making it our goal to get everything off of the list. After we were done shopping, we were on our way to the event. When we got there, I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and I was amazed at how big the event was. It was located in an old warehouse building and it was at full capacity. There were at least fifty volunteers and everywhere you looked there were booths full of different items. I also vividly remember right in the middle of the warehouse there was a home goods section. This section allowed people to get into the Christmas spirit by choosing an ornament off a Christmas tree. I remember thinking it was so wonderful that these trees would be donated to a few special families by a raffle. While there, I was in charge of one of the coat booths. I went to the booth by myself. I was extremely nervous, but as soon as the first family came by, the nervousness was gone and replaced with joy. For the first time, I got to interact with the families that we were serving. This experience enlightened me and was absolutely one of the most influential moments in my life. I got to know a network of people that all had the same goal: to help others during the holiday season. After participating in this charity drive, I realized that it was something that I was passionate about and wanted to continue to do. Since this event, I have participated in numerous volunteer and community events. I look forward to supporting others by just being present and volunteering my time. I have also matured and now understand that no matter how young or old, everyone has something that they can contribute; whether it’s their time, donation, or money; a small act of kindness can go a long way.
© Paige Graybill. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.