Service hours vs. serving the community

Service Hours vs. Serving the Community:

What does service mean to me? Growing up in a small town, I didn’t have much exposure to community service. Beyond bingo at the local senior living center, I didn’t have any experience serving my community. Then came my life as a member of a sorority.

Upon joining Alpha Sigma Alpha, I was introduced to the life of required service. I was told each semester I would need to complete “x” number of hours of community service as an expectation of membership. I loved the idea of service, and it excited me to give back, but I was overwhelmed and had no idea where to begin. I spent my first year of membership completing an hour here and there at whatever opportunity our officers presented at chapter meeting. I completed my required hours, but it felt more like completing a homework assignment than giving back. It wasn’t until I signed up to become a coach with Girls on the Run that I found what service means to me.

My experience serving as a coach for Girls on the Run
After a full year of avoiding Girls on the Run because I was not a runner, I first became involved with the program in the fall of 2014 as a full-time coach. I was assigned to work at a Title I school in the lowest income area of my town. I was told this was a school that sometimes had a great deal of behavioral issues, as well as difficulty with coach retention.

My first season was not easy, and there were many hurdles in volunteering. It was scary to commit a semester’s worth of Monday and Wednesday afternoons to volunteering. There were a lot of behavioral issues and girls who had a hard time listening to a group of college-aged coaches they had never met. However, it was not long before I recognized the difference we were making.

I continued to coach at this school for five consecutive seasons. Myself, and another coach actually scheduled our classes around our “Girls on the Run Time.” As the seasons continued, we built relationships with the girls, their parents and the faculty at the school. As those relationships grew, so did our girls. We had a mixture of girls who were repeat participants and brand-new participants each season. Girls who were our most problematic girls in our first season turned into leaders who were the first to answer a question or help out another teammate in later seasons.

I had the fortune of serving an organization that I am passionate about for two and a half years, and I saw the results of my commitment to service right in front of my eyes. I can say that I have made a difference in the lives of girls who have also made a huge difference in mine. It is the relationships that I built through my commitment to this cause and these girls that allowed me to make a bigger impact than I could have ever hoped for.

Committing to Service:
All too often, we are all guilty of completing service as a box to check off on a long list of to-do items. It is tempting to get caught up in tomorrow’s exam, next week’s work schedule, and that meeting every Tuesday that always goes overtime, and believe that there isn’t time for service. While giving your time, however you decide to do it, is meaningful, the lasting impact of committing to a cause that ignites your passions is far more valuable.

As you consider how you will participate in community service as a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha, I encourage you to seek out opportunities that align with your values and passions. You might even consider finding a local non-profit you could donate your time to, while also learning valuable skills for your major. I encourage you to do more than complete volunteer hours, make your time serve the community. By doing so, you can truly ignite change.

–Melissa Stallbaumer, Beta Sigma

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