The month of April has been established as National Volunteer Month in response to an executive order signed by President Richard Nixon in 1974. As part of this initiative the government has challenged Americans to give back to their communities in hope of strengthening and empowering the greater community. Since that time local and state officials have been putting greater emphasis on volunteerism. The Black Faculty and Staff Forum at the College of William and Mary known as The Forum continues to meet that challenge. This year, members of the Forum along with other William & Mary employees showed how much they cared by volunteering their time at Grove Christian Outreach Center in Williamsburg, VA.
Grove Christian Outreach Center is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that is operated by volunteers. Every Wednesday they have Bread Day in which food and clothes are distributed to the community. However, bread is not the only food item provided. They provide meats, desserts, fresh produce, and drinks. In addition, participating restaurants and companies such as Olive Garden, Starbucks, Red Lobster, Pizza Hut, Panera bread, and Pepperidge Farm donate items to this cause (Grove Christian Outreach Center, n.d.).
On Wednesday, April 22, 2009 members of The Forum along with other William & Mary employees congregated at the entrance of Grove Christian Outreach Center waiting for directives. They were paired with other volunteers who previously worked on the project. Some were assigned to work in the food pantry, the clothes closet, and for set-up.
There was much work to do in preparation for serving the community. Tents and tables had to be set-up. Food had to be placed on tables. Clothes had to be folded and hung up. However, work could not commence until all volunteers were on one accord….with one mind….that is to serve. In order to do this, Deena Walls, the Assistant Director of Grove Christian Outreach Center, united everyone by having them to stand in a circle, hand-in-hand, while leading them in prayer.
After they received the vision, volunteers began working fervently to make Bread Day a success. At one point, it began to rain. However, that did not deter them. As it rained, one of the volunteers shouted, “Pray that it would stop raining! If you believe, it will stop raining.” Soon after, the rain ceased then volunteers began clapping their hands with excitement as the sun began to shine.
After everything was prepared, Deena brought everyone together once again for prayer. Before she prayed, she asked if there were any specific prayer requests. Some wanted prayer for family members who had been affected by terminal illnesses and the like. Some wanted prayer for financial stability and the list goes on. Despite the needs of the volunteers, they stopped focusing on their issues (even if it was for one day) to serve others. Everyone returned to their stations to welcome and serve the community.
Standing in the line were people of all ages, gender, race, and social economic status. The state of the economy is affecting the masses without discrimination. Some needed more than others. For example, some people only needed food while others needed food and clothing. As people walked through the line, the theme of being thankful resonated in the hearts of the volunteers as this could easily be any of them (us) in need. The day ended with smiling faces as needs of people were met.
Even though the month of April is designated as National Volunteer Month, volunteerism should be seen as an integral part of American citizenship. The thought of citizenship should develop social consciousness and involvement in democracy. Our forefathers used the Declaration of Independence as the critical component in establishing the raison d'être of this nation; thus, the birth of democracy. However, citizens are needed to help continue the process of forming a “more perfect union” by strengthening its community. The volunteers did this by devoting four hours out of their day to make a great impact on the lives of others. You could do the same.
If you would like to be involved in the Forum’s next community service project, contact Cherice Carlos at (757) 221-2068 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grove Christian Outreach Center. (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2009, from http://www.groveoutreach.com/foodministries.htm
A photo gallery of the event will be available soon.