Keene State College students give back through their increasing involvement in community service projects.
KSC sophomore Brittany LaFleur said that she has always been involved in community service projects, but first got involved in the Keene area through the KSC Reads Program.
“I was hired through the KSC Reads Program as a volunteer to work as a teacher assistant at Keene HeadStart. I volunteered there for my first semester and have worked there ever since as a paid position,” LaFleur said.
In addition to volunteering at HeadStart, LaFleur said that she also volunteers at Hundred Nights Homeless Shelter and the Community Kitchen. LaFleur said her love for helping others was the driving force in volunteering her time with multiple community service outlets.
“I participate in community services often. It really depends on the week though. I do some projects that are annual (Relay for life and the Alzheimer’s Walk) in addition to projects that I do frequently, such as the Hundred Nights overflow shelter night attendant,” LaFleur said.
On campus, LaFleur continues to encourage other students to get involved in community services through her Residential Assistant position.
“My position this year as an RA is in the Citizens and Service Living Learning Community. It is basically my job to help my residents get involved on campus, volunteer and be civically active. I do this by helping my residents put on community service/civic engagement programs that they plan and run as well as providing them with various community service opportunities throughout the year,” LaFleur said.
Through their involvement in community services, LaFleur said that she hopes her residents gain an understanding of the world through the community service that they do.
“The projects that we do help such a large variety of people. We see people at their peaks and in vulnerable moments. Both are just as important, as we are learning, connecting and understanding what it means to have a positive impact on the community,” LaFleur said.
In terms of what she personally gains from her involvement of community services, LaFleur said that for her the most beneficial part of her volunteer work is service learning.
One of LaFleur’s residents, sophomore Olivia Miller also weighed in on her involvement in community services.
“I live in the Citizens and Service Learning Living Community in Pondside 3. Living here allows for my friends and I to have even more experiences with helping our community and world in unique ways. We have picked up trash around Keene, volunteered at the Hundred Nights Homeless Shelter and made cards for the patients of St. Jude’s Hospital,” Miller said.
In addition to her miscellaneous volunteer work around the Keene Community, Miller said that she is also involved in the Habitat for Humanity Chapter on campus as a publicity coordinator for the club.
“I was inspired to join a Habitat chapter at college because I took a trip sophomore year of high school to Mississippi to help rebuild homes lost to Hurricane Katrina. I got to meet the person who was going to be moving into the home and I felt like I had actually made a difference in someone’s life,” Miller said.
She continued, “When I saw the Habitat for Humanity table at the student involvement fair freshmen year I knew it was something I needed to be a part of, and I plan to continue volunteering with this organization in the future.”
Like Miller, sophomore Ben Weidman is also an active member at the Habitat for Humanity.
“I have done community service my whole life,” Weidman said. “In fact, I am an Eagle Scout, so I had to design and lead my own service project. At KSC I became involved with community service the first semester of my freshmen year. I joined Habitat for Humanity and I applied to go on Alternative Break Trip to New Orleans.”
Weidman said that at first community service was just a way for him to try some new things and hang out with friends, in addition to being a high school requirement. However, as he did more and more service, Weidman said that he found activities that he enjoyed doing.
“I participate in physical community service projects a few times a month, but because I am on the Executive Board of both Habitat for Humanity and I am an Alternative Break Leader, I spend a lot of time planning service projects,” Weidman said.
He continued, “One of the most important parts of community service is being aware of the root causes of the social issues that you are working with through education. A big part of the Alternative Break program is working to become an active citizen, rather than just a volunteer. So, while I only get to volunteer on projects once or twice a month, I spend a lot of time preparing for them, which is equally as important.”
Miller said that a typical day of volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity includes Habitat builds, which Miller said are the most exciting days.
“Habitat volunteers hop in a car and head to the building site, which are most often in Manchester or Concord. We do whatever they need us to do. That can include landscaping, window frames, tiling, painting, building interior walls or building a roof,” Miller said.
She continued, “The other Habitat volunteers at the home teach us how to do our tasks and will helps us with whatever we need. Our Saturday builds generally take the whole day. We leave around 7 a.m. and return just before dinnertime. It is a tiring day, but being able to say we helped to build a home is quite empowering.”
Weidman added, “Most of the Habitat for Humanity builds are in either Manchester or Concord, but we also volunteer around Keene at places like 100 Nights Shelter. With Alternative Break, I am returning to New Orleans over Spring Break and there are several other trips going to places like Florida, Alabama and Kentucky.”
In terms of what they feel the most beneficial part of volunteering their time to community services is, Miller said she feels there is no one part of doing community service that is the most special.
“I think for me it is just knowing that I am helping someone else be in a better place in their life. Helping isn’t always about the big things, but I’ve learned that little acts of kindness can go a long way. Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose that I hope everyone can experience once in their lifetime,” Miller said.
Weidman added, “I think the most beneficial part of community service is inspiring volunteers to continue service in the future. If people become passionate about volunteering in their community and they become well educated on the roots of the issues, then they can make a long-term difference in that community.”
Both Weidman and Miller added that they think more students should get involved with community services.
“Through community service you can learn a lot about the community and yourself. Community service is also a great way to gain experience, whether you like to teach, build, work with animals, or help the environment, there is a service opportunity for you,” Weidman said.
Miller added, “ I have learned skills that I would have never thought possible, like putting in drywall and building interior walls. Take a chance, learn something new, and help a person out. You never know what adventures it might lead to.”
Brogan Wessell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org