Dante Picchiello (right), a high school junior from Father Lopez Catholic High School, paints picnic tables with his classmates at Duvall Homes, a nonprofit organization in Volusia County that provides residential supportive care and day training for people with Down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities.

We raise our children to be polite, to play safe and fair, to practice good hygiene, to finish their vegetables…and to do many other things. Well, there is another subject matter parents and teachers impress upon children that can make a positive impact on their future. Introducing the priceless value of community service to children, at a young age, helps develop caring adults with an understanding of the many areas in need of support that surround them. When elementary age students discover the needs of people in their own neighborhood, and learn how they can help, it stays with them forever and can create life-long ambassadors of their community.

“The first time I remember helping my community was when I was eight years old. I helped clean up debris in the neighborhood after a hurricane,” said Dante Picchiello, a junior at Father Lopez High School. Since then, Dante has contributed numerous hours of service to his community. Just this past February, Dante began the month by volunteering to paint picnic tables at Duvall Homes, a nonprofit organization in Volusia County that provides services for people with special needs. He ended the month by preparing for a mission trip with classmates to the Dominican Republic.

Elizabeth Henry at DeLand High School

We raise our children to be polite, to play safe and fair, to practice good hygiene, to finish their vegetables…and to do many other things. Well, there is another subject matter parents and teachers impress upon children that can make a positive impact on their future. Introducing the priceless value of community service to children, at a young age, helps develop caring adults with an understanding of the many areas in need of support that surround them. When elementary age students discover the needs of people in their own neighborhood, and learn how they can help, it stays with them forever and can create life-long ambassadors of their community.

“The first time I remember helping my community was when I was eight years old. I helped clean up debris in the neighborhood after a hurricane,” said Dante Picchiello, a junior at Father Lopez High School. Since then, Dante has contributed numerous hours of service to his community. Just this past February, Dante began the month by volunteering to paint picnic tables at Duvall Homes, a nonprofit organization in Volusia County that provides services for people with special needs. He ended the month by preparing for a mission trip with classmates to the Dominican Republic.

AWARENESS = ACTION = SUCCESS

Most high schools require a minimum of 100 hours of community service by the time the student graduates, while some colleges like to see 200-to-300 hours or more. In addition to high school test scores, community service hours can be a determining factor in college acceptance. Why is this? According to Forbes Magazine, students who have been active in their community are more likely to be active in school social life and contribute to a school’s mission.

There are a host of community service activities kids of all ages can get involved in, and seeing elders get involved inspires children to do the same. In addition to meeting new friends and gaining new experiences, donating time to helping others creates a platform for developing personally in a way self-serving tasks do not.

“Volunteering in one’s community builds character and the social-emotional part of children that can’t fully develop in the classroom alone,” said Felicia Benzo, Founder/President of CATALYST Global Youth Initiatives, Inc. “Obtaining a good GPA is not sufficient to building a well-rounded human being,” added Benzo.

There are many opportunities for young children to help their community. Have them collect a pile of books they’ve already read to donate to a school library. Encourage them to fill a bag of outgrown clothes and shoes to bring to a local drop box. Shop for nonperishable foods for a food bank. Making cookies for a homeless shelter or cards to send to Veterans or deployed U.S. Troops can be educational, fun and impactful – impactful on the recipient(s) of their service and on the child. As the nation grows, our future depends on developing more young community ambassadors.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Duvall Homes by contacting [email protected] (Resources: Reasons to Get Involved, KidsHealth.org; Service Projects for Kids, KidWorldCitizen.org)
Lisa Habermehl

Director of Marketing & Special Projects, Duvall Homes, Inc.