These ladies- Emily Schutzenhofer, Chrissy Brimmage, and Kendra Minoza- recorded their experience during their day of service.
Did you miss out on Scholar Day of Service at ScholarCon 2014? Read about the amazing service events we engaged in as our NLC members remember their experiences, and learn more about how to get involved in these projects at your own NSCS chapter!
Emily Schutzenhofer, NLC President
Our charter bus ride was strangely quiet. Tuckered out by a non-stop ScholarCon weekend and especially by the explosive closing party the night before, some volunteers were taking the opportunity to rest, their heads fallen forward and bobbing along to the rhythm of the road. The rest of us held soft conversations or were pressed to the windows. The bus flew past International Drive, a frenzy of alluring color and tourist stops. The world’s largest McDonald’s, SeaWorld, resorts like castles and shops bright as candy… we blew past them one by one, practically drooling at the sight. Our destination, as we discovered when the bus rolled to a stop, was a much more humble, nondescript white warehouse. The pack of us bustled through a long loading dock and a tiny door to find the site of our Scholar Day of Service.
The warehouse was cavernous, with crate after crate stacked to the ceiling and brimming over with bars of soap. Most looked like the soap from my Gaylord room’s bathroom sink: the ones we had scarcely used for a few nights and then abandoned for the housekeeping to discard when we checked out. Clean the World is a charitable organization that collects those forsaken soaps, shampoos, lotions, and more, the staff explained to us. They sanitize and recycle these hygiene products and then distribute them around the globe to children, families, homeless shelters, and disaster relief responses. Their incredible efforts all at once reduce waste and save the lives of the 5,600 children who die each day of preventable, hygiene-related illnesses. When we had left our Gaylord rooms that morning, little did we know the lessons in service and teamwork that our forlorn bars of soap would have in store for us today.
Two tables stretched in front of us, loaded with hygiene kit-making materials and staring at us to begin. My first inclination may or may not have been to start an intricate life-saving line dance that would have us twirling up and back down the tables (dance-off, anyone?). But before I’d had time to hear “Cotton Eyed Joe” playing in my head, the other volunteers were on the case. I watched our once so muted group come alive at the prospect of making a difference, giving back, and working together. In an instant, the thirty of us took our places along the tables to form an assembly line. Each person added an item to a plastic bag— soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, and washcloth— determinedly passing the bags to each other and down the line to completion. We were set to make 600 hygiene kits that day, and our Scholars, as usual, were excelling at the task, and laughing and chatting too.
Then, our test arose, a break in our line! There were three steps at the end of the process: writing inspirational notes for the recipients of the kits, loading these into the bags and sealing them, and packing the kits neatly into boxes. There had been Scholars on these tasks all along, but they proved much more time consuming than the process of filling the bags. The kits flew off the end of the assembly lines, piling knee-high before the note-writers could glance over their shoulders. It was as if pressure was building at a backup in a pipe, threatening to make it burst! But our sharp Scholars didn’t let that happen, and I was proud to watch leaders emerge from our midst, redirecting resources to let off the steam. Before long, we resolved our distribution dilemma, using feedback to problem solve and become a more efficient, well-oiled team. Our scholarly triumph seemed to fill the team with even more energy, and the last of the kits were sealed up and packaged away after no time at all. In fact, we made all 600 kits in an hour, half the time they had predicted it would take us. Our Scholars’ teamwork abilities left the staff of Clean the World scratching their heads about finding more ways for us to help until our charter bus rolled back into the parking lot. We headed back to the Gaylord, and our boxes of hygiene kits headed off to the American Southwest, to aid unaccompanied minors through the area Catholic Relief Services.
I am tempted to predictably call our assembly line machine-like, but the more I try to sneak that analogy into this narrative, the less it seems to describe what happened that day. The volunteers poured so much energy and passion into serving this great cause that our machine ascended to something greater— a living, breathing team that cooperated, adapted, and built bonds within itself. The uniting, teambuilding power of service is something that you have to see for yourself to believe, Scholars.
Luckily, you can hold a soapy service event with Clean the World at your own NSCS chapter! Through the ONE project, you can (very cheaply!) order hygiene kit materials for your chapter to put together, and then donate the kits to your local charity of choice! Women’s shelters, disaster relief efforts, homeless shelters, and more would all be very grateful to receive 100 hygiene kits from your NSCS chapter! Learn more and participate at www.cleantheworld.org.
NSCS on a Mission: Operation Gratitude
Chrissy Brimmage, NLC Board Member
When it came time to sit down and write my letter for Operation Gratitude, I remember thinking “What in the world am I going to write about?!” The project’s aim is to lift the morale of the Military Community by sending care packages to soldiers that include a personal letter of appreciation. The directions for the letter were simple: Give some information about yourself, express gratitude for the service of the soldier, and make sure the letter is upbeat and positive. But yet, all I could get down on my paper for the first 20 minutes was a salutation and a mediocre introduction. I was failing miserably, and going by the other blank letters of other participants at my table, I wasn’t the only one.
“It’s not that hard! Here read mine,” one of the NSCS Member Engagement Coordinators said handing me their letter. In the letter they explained a little bit of what NSCS is and how we just concluded a successful weekend at ScholarCon, and then they went on to thank the solider because without them the convention would not have ever been able to happen. That’s when it hit me! Here in the United States we are very fortunate to be secure and comfortable on a day-to-day basis. However, sometimes because we are so comfortable, we forget that the comfort we have become accustomed to is fought for and protected by our courageous soldiers. When I realized this, it became difficult to contain my gratitude in just a one-page letter. All of a sudden I found my hand writing away, thanking the solider because without his bravery I may not have been able to go to college, chase my dreams, or even enjoy the simple everyday things I love that I sometimes take for granted. When you realize how much of a sacrifice soldiers give so that citizens can live carefree and ambitious lives, completing Operation Gratitude becomes a humbling and effortless task.
If you are interested in hosting Operation Gratitude at your campus, all you would need is paper, writing utensils, and honest gratitude. Seriously, it’s that simple. Plus the project is flexible; you can either host an event where members come and write letters expressing their appreciation for our soldier’s service, or you can host an ongoing campaign where members can submit letters to be sent off at any time. The beauty of Operation Gratitude is that it’s such a simple project to conduct, but it has a lasting impact. Good wishes of love and support go a long way!
The Little Boy Who Plans on Giving a Kid the World
Kendra Minoza, 2013-2014 NLC Board Member
Would you sacrifice food, sleep, and risk losing precious downtime with friends you will probably never, ever see again to volunteer for children you have not even met? Last July 27, at 6 AM, I was all set and about to head out my hotel room, determined to catch my 6:45 AM bus ride to volunteer for Give Kids the World (GKTW) in Kissimee, Florida. This meant missing out on the collective farewell ScholarCon breakfast at 7 AM. My roommate, Chrissy, was none too pleased about me reluctantly responding to her redundant nudging: “I’ll see you later, alright?” I was certain I would see her in the afternoon, but somehow I was awashed with the feeling that I was just waiting to be stunned by some unfortunate news… which I brushed off.
At the GKTW Village, my first destination was bright and beautiful: the Gingerbread House. My first task was to fill cups with whatever beverages families requested; it sounded easy enough. However, I, for lack of a better term, sucked at doing this. To conceal my awkward clumsiness, I joked around and shared stories with the children and their parents–which seemed to have filled the void where my hand-eye coordination should have been. Then, it was time to wipe the tables down, move the chairs around, and vacuum the carpets. The head chef thanked us for our time and sighed as he requested that we return our Mickey Mouse aprons in preparation for destination number two: the swimming pool.
At the swimming pool, my only task was to make sure the children were supervised, entertained, and had immediate access to towels. As I was walking around, a little boy tugged on my shirt and asked if I was crazy. I was wearing a leather jacket in the 80-90 degree weather so I was not too surprised. “A little bit,” I replied. “Do crazy people make it to college?” he nervously queried; and I nodded while pointing at the living proof. Then, he squealed! He pranced around! He hugged me while jumping up and down! And being the adult, I naturally squealed and jumped around with him until he calmed down. This was when he told me about his dreams of becoming a successful “worldwide lawyer” in the future.
The little boy’s mission was to be a lawyer in as many countries as possible. When I asked why, he lengthily described his desire to make more than enough for his future family and his ill brother, one among the many children with life-threatening diseases GKTW was built to serve. He wanted to travel the world and take his brother with him. “He can’t walk but he can fly,” he reasoned. Count me surprised; I did not think kids could be THIS selflessly compassionate… but I suppose your perspective changes when you know early on that you are needed. Before he left, he hugged me again, and I buried my face in his tiny back to conceal the damp warmth in my eyes. I made sure he would be the first to let go not just because that was the “warm” thing to do but because I did not want to.
Reentering the bus, I was eager to get back to the hotel to tell the rest of the outgoing and incoming NLC about my day. I could not contain my excitement… until I realized that I had mixed up my shuttle ride pickup time with my flight’s departure time. Sitting next to NLC Advisor Sankaya and still in disbelief, I impulsively blurted out: “What was I thinking? Volunteering?” “You were thinking with your heart!” she chuckled. Then, in a second, that little boy’s Texas-sized smile flashed in my head. He is a selfless, future “worldwide lawyer,” and then there was me. I apologized and proceeded to be my usual cheerful self for the rest of the trip.
To my dismay, I got back to the hotel at 12:40 PM, with just enough time to pick up my bags from the checkout area to catch my shuttle ride that apparently leaves at 12:45 PM. The most I could do was text everyone goodbye. Several hours later, I was back home and Chinese food was for dinner; yet still, as I ate, I again found myself questioning the decisions I made earlier that day. Then, when I cracked open my fortune cookie, a smile crept across my face: “Your ability to love will help a child in need.” I apologize to everyone I did not get to say goodbye to that day because even if I had a time machine… I would not change a thing.
P. S. Kudos to the parents of the future “worldwide lawyer” as he had refused to give me, a stranger, his name. Well done.