Sponsored by the North Side Naples Kiwanis and led by middle school teacher Mary Alexander, the 20 Builders Club members from North Naples Middle School in Florida are discovering that impacting the community is a little easier - and a lot more fun - than they may have thought at the beginning of the school year.
“Students are learning the importance of serving their local and school communities by creating projects that support multigenerational members of the community,” says Alexander.
To date, the club has 11 projects planned throughout the course of the school year. Each one was created and voted on by members of the club, then ranked in order of popularity before being scheduled. Five of these have already been completed and have supported many causes such as the United Way, St. Matthew’s House, the K is for Kids Foundation book drive and most recently, the Imperial Healthcare Center, where club members hosted a holiday party for the 58 residents.
“The residents were thrilled. Their eyes lit up at the sight of young people coming to visit them,” Alexander says.
Students raised money for the Imperial holiday party by hosting a dance at their school. Tickets were sold and the event raised $1,100 to purchase refreshments and gifts for the residents.
Alexander says the activity director at Imperial Healthcare was diligent in getting specific information from residents on their wish list, so students were able to personalize gift purchases to ensure the items were something the residents really wanted.
Most requests were simple, such as candy, perfume and slippers. But the students did scour eBay for some hard-to-find items on the list.
Alexander said many of the residents do not have family in the area, so the gifts and visitors really brightened their lives.
Club members were responsible for the preparation of the holiday party, which involved coordinating with the facility, planning refreshments and decorations, purchasing and wrapping gifts, and providing entertainment for the hour-and-a-half visit.
But the impact made was not just on the recipients of the charitable endeavor. Participating students realized the hands-on experience was meaningful to themselves.
“From a charitable giving standpoint,” noted Alexander, “students got to see and feel the difference one person can make in someone else’s life and the power of a team to really deliver a meaningful experience…”
Alexander is proud of the changes she’s seen in her students as a result of the community service projects.
“In the short time since the school year began, I have seen students develop their leadership skills and noticed that they have become even more accepting of divergent ideas,” she says.
Future projects include animal shelter support, stuffed animals for hospitalized children and a donation to a Columbian school.