"Every Little Bit Counts" This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Did you ever wonder where the time has gone? It's May 14, 1997 and it's been five years since I started a program called The Virtues of Volunteering. I remember how excited I was to start. As soon as I stepped into my office on my first day, my boss handed me a folder with information on the project I was to head. I began to read the papers and pamphlets and soon realized I had to come up with an idea or project to encourage youth within the state to volunteer.

I brainstormed for a few days because I wanted to come up with a really awesome idea. My ideas were pretty sketchy and I was afraid of something going wrong. It was my first assignment and I wanted to show everyone how successful I could be. But the key thing I needed to realize was that I wasn't going to be doing this on my own.

Local high schools were where I found much of my help. I wrote to all the schools in the state asking if they would like to participate. Hours of licking and stamping letters paid off. A variety of organizations (student councils, key clubs, student governments, and other charity groups) replied that they would be glad to participate.

With their help and that of other volunteers, I created what is now known as National Volunteer Day on May 14. Every May 14th, people donate their time for a good cause. Many students visit a nursing home, hospital or soup kitchen. I leave it up to the volunteers where to go and what to do, which encourages a variety of charitable work.

Volunteer Day no longer is just for the youth. Many adults participate too. I wanted all ages to be able to help and my motto is, "Every little bit counts."

Children from elementary schools, write letters to the elderly, sick or less fortunate. They also draw pictures, and make gifts. The elementary schools send these items to the high schools for students to take when they volunteer. People loved to see work from all ages and the relationship between both levels of school seems to work well.

This program turned out better than I expected. I am proud of all who give a day just to bring a little bit of happiness into someone else's. But all the volunteers didn't go unrewarded: each received a certificate of thanks with a tree planted in their name in local parks where all can enjoy them.

When I began this, I thought it would be hard to motivate youth. I mean, a certificate and a tree doesn't sound very appealing. But what made them volunteer was the feeling they got when the day was over. They helped someone more they will ever know. I really think the program became successful through word of mouth. Many students told their friends what a great experience it was. And so the next year more and more students volunteered. I love being able to give people the opportunity to help others. It may be just for one day, but the rewards last a lifetime. fl


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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