Community service quietly builds networks

Helen Weiss

In the chaotic life of a high schooler, volunteering can seem futile. If days of time and effort are put into service activities for only a few hours of an event, why volunteer? For Key Club members, service hours are more than just a line on a college application. Volunteers develop personal connections to an event, want to give back to the community for their support of different sports or activities, or give back to people in need.
Key Club participates in many different events, both national and communal. They volunteer at the Ozark Community Blood Center, the coat closet through the First Baptist Church, the Rolla Animal Shelter, the Russell House, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the Honoring our Heroes marathon. While these are all great organizations, not everybody is able or wanting to help out. A motivator for volunteering is finding something that you are passionate about. One way students do this is by suggesting things that spark their interest at one of their meetings.
Senior Madison Rogers, Co-President of Key Club, has been involved in the group since her sophomore year. Although she participates in many activities and is often busy, she still finds time to volunteer and finds the experience quite rewarding.
“This community does a lot for me through sports and different things like that,” stated Rogers. “So it’s nice to give back and give to people in need. I’ve met different people through the club that I probably wouldn’t have and made some new friends.”
Making friends and connections throughout the community aren’t the only good things about Key Club. It’s also a great way to help out those in need and, like with the Honoring our Heroes marathon, cheer on the community. For the ‘Honoring our Heroes’ marathon, Key Club has a water tent and signs with encouraging phrases
“I feel like the Heroes’ Marathon that we do every year really brightens [the runners] day. They always give us compliments about how cheerful we are and are always thanking us as they’re running, which is kind of crazy,” stated Rogers. “During the Heroes’ Marathon, we don’t necessarily know everybody in the club well. I feel like spending those four hours out in the cold with the music, yelling and encouraging all the runners, and passing out snacks is a good team building thing. You get to meet everybody and talk to them in the low points when there aren’t many runners coming through and get to know them better.”
Along with the more well known events, like coat drives, court-warming, and can drives, the club does many other projects that take time and effort.
“We typically like to adopt a family for Thanksgiving, but that did not happen this year. We’re gonna adopt a family for Christmas,” stated Rogers. “We also will normally adopt a couple kids. [Mr. Rodger Bridgeman] sends us things that they’re interested in or clothing sizes for pajamas or different clothes that they need, and then we’ll try to get as much as we can. Usually people volunteer to bring in things.”
Senior Vivian Laprise has been in Key Club since sophomore year. Originally, Laprise wasn’t a part of many clubs, but Key Club was doing many different events which caught her attention. A memorable event for Laprise was the Heroes’ Marathon.
“This year, we were doing the Heroes’ Marathon,” said Laprise, “and an army guy comes and he’s like, decked out and everything. He’s got guns on his hips and a giant rifle in his arms. And he was just walking. He was not caring about what his time was going to be in the race. He was walking along and talking to everybody and he stayed at our tent for about 10 minutes. He talked to us for a while and then just kept on walking and started talking to the next tent.”
When thinking about why she volunteers, Laprise remembers the people and animals she sees around town.
“I see all these homeless people and all these stray dogs and everything and I just feel terrible for them, since I know that no one really cares,” stated Laprise. “And I mean, I’m sure there are people out there who do care, but they can’t do anything about it. Whenever I drive past someone, like at the Walmart parking lot, if I don’t give them anything, I feel terrible. So I just wanted to do something to help out.”
Christy Green is a math teacher at Rolla High School and the advisor of the Key Club. She recognizes that, as much as others would love to help out with the community, they are unable to because of conflicts like work, school, or homelife.
“You guys have extremely busy schedules, and trying to find something that will fit into your schedules is difficult,” said Green. “Another difficult part is finding something you’re passionate about, finding something that’s close to your heart. For example, looking at the Epilepsy Foundation. That one came about because my husband started having seizures. It felt close to my heart, and I felt a need to give back. When I asked the students and explained, ‘Hey, I feel pretty passionate about this,’ they were 100% on board with me. Coat closets are another example. Back in 2004, I had a student write in a journal that all they wanted for Christmas was a coat, and it broke my heart. Since then, it’s been like, ‘Okay, this is a minor thing we can do. We can collect coats, we can carry them across the street. It’s not a big deal’. So that’s finding something that’s close to your heart, which I think can be a little hard for teenagers to figure out. I suggest trying different things, like if I work at the GRACE food distribution line and that’s just not for me, that’s okay. Maybe then I’ll go see if the library needs help, or the animal shelter if I’m into animals, or some other avenue.”
When participating in community service, some people are looking to get hours for a club or an organization, while others are doing it for their own personal reasons.
“Sometimes [students are] just doing it to get their hours,” said Green. “And I’ll be quite frank, the people that do that don’t get the hours because they just show up for the event. They don’t show up for the process, like [for the Heroes’ Marathon] they don’t show up to make the posters and go through the excitement of making them…I get to watch [the students who are there for every event and preparation] grow and change and be like ‘okay, what’s our next event?’ because they’re excited to find out what it is. The other thing is, you’re seeing a different side of what may be your normal, cushy life, or vice versa; if you’ve got a hard life, maybe this is a way for you to get some relief and relax. Everybody’s got a different piece they’re going to get out of it.”
With Green organizing so many Key Club events, it’s hard for her to pick a favorite.
“I would honestly have to say that my favorite event is Honoring Our Heroes. I had been able to run the Honoring Our Heroes half-marathon four times, and three of those four times my Key Club kids were standing there ready to cheer me on. We had personally made signs for [Ms. Croft], but she didn’t see the signs till she was past. And she ended up getting a PR, which is awesome, and we’re really proud of her,” said Green.
Key Club made a special sign for Ms. Kylie Croft, a math teacher at Rolla High School, who has run two half-marathons.
“You hit a certain point,” said Croft. “You’re just trudging along, but [the tents] help break up the monotony, and a lot of times you pick up your pace when there’s people around you. I think it definitely helps and it’s nice.”
Key Club has welcomed new members and has given many students opportunities to help provide for their local community.
“Through community service, you are building networks that you don’t know you’re even building at the time,” said Green.