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Students, teacher, food bank CEO address importance of community involvement, volunteering

Clubs at this school can come and go, but some desire to have lasting effects within the community. Julia Dong, Key Club co-president and senior, said she believes in the value of giving back to the community since it not only provides many opportunities to learn, but also creates a relationship between volunteers and the community. Whether it be students individually or people in a group, participating in outreach activities giving their time and energy can help better their community, and create an upright influence.

Key Club members make paper chains of kindness for the Mindfulness Room at their Nov. 2, 2022 meeting. Key Club meets on late start Wednesdays each month. (Lorna Ding)

“I think it’s very important to reach out to your community, because, personally I have gotten so many great opportunities from the Hamilton County in general, and I think it’s important to give back to those people who have helped me in the past, like those elementary schools and middle schools, so we like to include a lot of opportunities there in our agenda,” Dong said, “but it’s also really important to recognize that we are privileged here at Carmel, and there are people that do not have a many opportunities that we may have, which is why I think it is important to give back to the community and to help others get the experience I’ve had.”

Dong also said when many people come together for the purpose of volunteering, greater community contributions could be made.

“Key Club has always been an organization I have been passionate about. Since I came from being in student council in middle school, I had an interest in leadership in high school and then I discovered Key Club, which was one of the biggest service based clubs in Carmel,” Dong said. “And I think there’s lots of power to clubs with a lot of people, like the bigger population you have, the bigger contributions you can make and the bigger service projects you can plan, but there’s always an impact in anything you do.”

Fred Glass, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana CEO, also said without numerous people volunteering, many community giveback events cannot happen.

“We really couldn’t do it without our volunteers, so literally, we wouldn’t have enough people or money for the things we do today, so it helps us and our community but also helps our volunteers,” Glass said. “Our volunteers don’t come here to sit around, they come here to connect with our neighbors, and so I’d like to think it’s a two way street where the entire community gets something out of it.”

Like Dong, Glass said that involvement in service organizations and giving back to the community is an honor to do. He credits his history in law as a factor in developing service into his career.

“I’ve always felt involved in public service, giving back to the community and helping those less fortunate than us on a big and small level, and feeding the hungry is one of the most fundamental things to do,” Glass said. “I was happy just practicing law, but the opportunity to be in this position at Gleaners and help feed the hungry and help our neighbors, is super compelling and probably my dream job.”

Likewise, Anabelle Yang, president of Sprinkle of Joy and senior, said she also thinks reaching out and giving back to her community is important. She said outreach and volunteering can provide a heartwarming experience while raising awareness and establishing connections.

Sprinkle of Joy members package baked goods on April 12 for TEDxCHS conference. Sprinkle of Joy is a baking club that distributes to nonprofits in the community. (Grace Guo)

“I like that we get recognition sometimes and that’s very heartwarming, especially with the library, they’ve come to us multiple times, saying that they appreciate us and love appreciating our gifts, and just how it brings a type of ‘joy’ to our community,” Yang said. “I really enjoy when people reach out to our club to say how much they enjoyed our goods, and we were kind of sad that a lot of people didn’t want to help distribute last year, but I’m glad this year more people want to come distribute with us.” 

Glass said he advocates for finding a way to help the community, and thinks everyone should try to find a way to help in the community, but should find what they are really looking for.

“Do what you’re actually interested in, not just to put on your resume. Find something you’re passionate about, like you could work with an animal shelter, or maybe it’s helping to feed the hungry, or maybe it’s Meals on Wheels or whatever,” Glass said. “Though (volunteering) may seem intimidating at first, but just jump in and take that first step in making our community a better place.”

Following Glass’s opinion on why and how someone should volunteer, Chad Andrews, Letters to Rose sponsor, said though some people do end up joining volunteer organizations for merit purposes, being in a community outreach program still has intrinsic benefits.

 “While there are a number of reasons why students want to join this club and write letters to the elderly, there are a lot of merit organizations that require a certain amount of community hours,” he said. “But there’s also some people, like the one who started this club, who just really create a healthy and outrospective mindset for students since it helps students be considerate of other people in different situations, and really brings the community together.”

Seniors and Key Club members Grace Zhang and Claire Noggle prepare water for Carmel Marathon participants on April 8. Key Club offers volunteer opportunities outside of CHS. (Submitted Photo: Teresa Yu)

Dong said giving back and helping others teaches one how important it is to help the ones in need, and community service connects one to the community while making it a better place for all.

“My favorite event I’ve been doing throughout all four years at Key Club is the Salvation Army bell ringing, since its just really a great opportunity to get out into the community since we will have buckets aprons and bells, and you’re with your friends and you ring your bells with your friends saying happy holidays and Merry Christmas, and it’s really nice to see the joy you can spread to your community and see how you can inspire others to donate and to serve others in the community.”

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