5 Ways to use Service Learning to Run a Successful Food Drive

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Shay Ernest on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 @ 11:52 AM

Service Learning Curriculum Ideas for Food Drive Projects that will Maximize Impact

Food_DriveFood drives are intended to educate students about food inequity and encourage students to take action. But is this what is indeed happening in class rooms and campuses? When not properly planned, food drives can do just the opposite, producing unintended consequences that reinforce or exacerbate stereotypes students hold about people living in poverty. Today we are providing ways to use service learning to overcome common challenges of food drives and maximize your intended meaningful impact. 



Let us take one step back. To avoid negative outcomes, we need to first understand when there is an imbalance of education and action, food drives can unintentionally be piloted in the wrong direction. A private high school in San Francisco used to take students to the poorer parts of town to volunteer at soup kitchens and food banks for a few hours at a time. Malcolm Singer, the school director of community service-learning, explains what can happen when there is action without proper education, “What we realized, when we were driving them back to school, was that (students) were saying the same things about hunger and poverty that they had been saying the day before. We realized we were reinforcing the same negative stereotypes.”[1] The same problem often occurs with food drives-- as there is typically little or no interaction between students and the community their donations are intended to help, and food drives may include little education about the root causes of hunger and poverty. The way to create a food drive that positively impacts both students and the community is simple – educate students about the issues of social justice and show them how to take action. Once a student becomes aware of the injustices in the world, they aspire to be a part of the improvement.


Nearly fifty million Americans face food insecurity.[2] Education should be centered on the root causes of hunger and poverty with curriculum focusing on who, what, where, and why. Because food insecurity is such a multifaceted issue, it lends itself to easily being incorporated in different areas of study. Below is a list of curriculum ideas for starting discussion and research projects (please keep in mind many of the topics below are not exclusive to the subject they are listed under as there is much intersection between the issues:

  • Health
    • Research effects of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes.
    • Compare rates of obesity in countries around the world with rates of malnutrition/hunger.
    • Examine nutritional value verse cost of food.
    • Look at MyPlate and USDA to understand what makes a healthy diet.
    • Create a healthy menu of one week for a family of four, price how much it cost to eat healthy.
  • Geography
    • Define and examine the characteristics of food deserts.
    • Identify the causes and consequences of food deserts.
    • How does the neighborhood influence the choices made about health.
    • Analyze the top five states with greatest food insecurity.
  • Economics
    • Research SNAP and the Farm Bill.
    • Create a formula to address the income needed to eliminate hunger; how much does it cost each week for a family of four to eat healthy? A single person?
    • Define the 2014 poverty guidelines.
    • Create a budget for a set area (include housing, electricity, water, transportation, insurances, phone, internet); using the area’s minimum wage at forty hours a week as income, analyze how much is left over for food; discuss how unforeseen circumstances (sickness, school expenses, etc.) can affect food purchases.
    • Determine what a family of four at poverty level would receive in government assistance, could they feed their family healthily for this amount? If so, for how long? What income is needed?
    • Have students track their own health budget for a week, compare to various income levels and assistance programs.
  • Social Sciences
    • Study laws and policies impacting rate of hunger, poverty, and lack of access to healthy food in America. Are new policies needed?
    • Compare current rates of hunger in the US to rates during the 1980s and 1990s.
    • Conduct comparative study for how others (various religions, cultures, ethnic groups, countries) approach the process of providing “charity” to the needy.
    • Comparative study on who is hungry (rural vs urban, ethnic groups, age, etc.)


Now the fun part of service learning: taking action! Engage your students in a meaningful service project to enhance their learning and provide guided practice in social responsibility. Don’t just let the food drive end when sufficient amount of cans are collected, connect the students to the community. Finding a food bank to work with will probably be the easiest part out of everything; there are food banks all across the nation. Feeding America is one of the largest food bank networks providing over 3.3 billion meals trough food pantries and meal programs. They have 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries serving more than 46 million people each year. Feeding America has a search on their website to help you find you’re your local food bank. Conducting a food drive will require a little planning. Youth Service America provides an in-depth, mainly logistical guide to running a food drive, appropriate for the high school level. No Kid Hungry also has a guide to integrating service learning and eating healthy for classrooms. Please note that both of these materials can be adapted to fit students of different ages.


Canned food drives can be seen as placing a “Band-Aid” on the issues of hunger and food inequity. Service learning projects are the chance for a cure – an emerging generation of socially conscious students dedicated to empowering others, as well as themselves.

“My motto in life is 'If you think it, you can do it' and if we all apply that thought we can end hunger the world over.” (Dionne Warwick)

[1] http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-32-fall-2007/feature/beyond-canned-food-drive

[2] http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html

Photo courtesy of Dolly Duplantier

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, service learning, food drive, service learning projects

Teaching Kindness Through Compassion & Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 03:11 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

This week is World Kindness Week.  The movement is simple: it encourages people to do something kind for someone else. Everyone has the capacity to be kind, but people can also be self-centered and hateful. For our compassion to win over our vanity, we have to develop the habit of being kind. We have to be reminded why it is important to be kind. To begin the process of developing kindness as a character trait, it is important to learn it from a young age.  For this reason, I believe that educators should teach kindness alongside regular school curriculum.

Teaching kindness helps create connected communitiesFostering kindness between students helps build character by training students to think of the feelings of others before acting negatively. Some teachers hold regular class discussions relating to kindness and empathy. Sometimes, simply taking the time to ask students to talk about themselves can bring out kindness in their peers. Such discussions can be prompted by questions as simple as How are you? or What are you doing this weekend?

I believe that when educators create an environment in which students can share freely and voluntarily about themselves, it can bring a group of people together. When you begin to learn about another person and respect their time to speak and share in the discussion, it becomes more difficult to be judgemental or negative towards them.  

Teachers find that this technique works well among younger students. Engineering social relationships to focus on seeing one’s peers as people, rather than objects of criticism, promotes kindness. They become more inclined to help one another, even in simple ways such as holding open doors or complimenting each other. Elementary-aged students who participate in regular discussions to get to know one another develop better cooperation, empathy, and self-control in group work activities. When students become kinder to their peers, they are better equipped to care about strangers and their community. 

When it comes to teaching students to be kind to the community, service-learning and volunteering can be valuable tools. Taking students on a service-learning field trip can help them see how their actions can have a positive impact on others. Holding school-wide events to fundraise or collect items for donation will open students’ eyes to the problems facing others.

Service-learning projects can easily tie into a number of academic subjects. Students can read literature related to a particular issue, gather statistics surrounding a cause, study the history and progress of similar social issues, and gain research skills from cultivating this information. When students first learn how a problem is impacting the lives of others, they develop empathy and want to formulate solutions for these issues. Service-learning and volunteering teaches kindness by allowing students to discover the kindness within themselves. This is more effective than being instructed on what kindness is. At the end of a service project, students can not only say that their service was helpful to others, but they can feel the growth of their own creativity, imagination, and inner compassion. 

Students serve and build compassion.

Most importantly, educators can teach kindness by leading by example. Teachers play an important role in forming both a student’s intellectual and emotional abilities. By showing kindness to students, teachers can be more encouraging and help students develop better self-esteem. Being understanding toward students teaches them to be understanding towards their peers.  Rather than punishing students for failing to meet expectations, teachers should be willing to open a dialogue about why a problem is occurring and what can be done to fix it. Sometimes a student may simply be preoccupied because of something at home, a problem with their friends, or difficulty understanding the material. These small conversations can help solve the root cause of an issue and prevent it from happening again. Students remember the compassion of teachers who help them to succeed, and will mimic the same compassion toward the people they encounter in the future. 

If we all make conscious efforts to be kind, we can build stronger and more meaningful relationships with individuals, our communities, and the world.  What actions will you take to celebrate World Kindness Week?


Topics: kindness, bullying prevention, service

Universities Engage Students & Community at Day of Service Events

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 08:03 AM

When I look back on my college days, I have very fond memories. I remember going to classes, and hanging on the quad with friends, as well as attending football and basketball games, concerts, and events.  While I was very active in service organizations in high school, for some reason I didn’t really pursue it in college. I volunteered with my sorority, helped at a few campus-related events, and also took part in a number of unpaid internships, but service wasn’t a major component back in my day, at least for me. I do remember my university had a service club, but I never really explored it. However, over the last decade or so, I’ve noticed a transformation occurring in students and the universities they attend. Students are more focused on volunteering and universities are working hard to engage them, as well as provide them with opportunities to serve the surrounding community.

Many schools now incorporate days of service with freshmen orientation or at the start of the school year. PIttservesWhat a great way to get students involved with their school and the neighboring community.  Let’s face it, a lot of young people who attend out of state schools never really get a chance to learn about the city they reside in for the next four years. Offering a day of service broadens their horizon and makes them realize there is a much bigger community just outside campus. Not only does the day of service  provide young adults with an opportunity to learn more about the needs of their college town, but it can also help them develop a greater sense of pride and accomplishment from using their skills to help their community. In addition to introducing new students to the value of service, it’s a perfect way to get to know other people with similar interests.

While I thought these campus-wide service events were a fairly new concept, I’ve learned otherwise. In the mid 1980’s, college students were sometimes portrayed as materialistic, self-absorbed, and more interested in making money than helping others. (Hmm, I did graduate in the mid-80’s!) However, a group of university presidents disagreed with this description and created Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the public purpose of education.  They believed that many students on campus were involved in community service and more would participate if proper encouragement and supportive structures were provided.

Boy, were they right. Colleges throughout the U.S. now have departments dedicated to engaging their students to perform public service with neighboring community partners. Take a look at any university’s club listing and you’ll also see a large number of student organizations dedicated just to service. Check out their calendar and you’ll find multiple volunteer events organized over the course of the school year, including campus-wide days of service where hundreds of students come together and share their time and talent throughout their city.

For the past 20 years, Nazareth College has held their Orientation Day of Service program to educate newNazareth_College students about the school’s mission and tradition of community engagement and to encourage students to be active members of the community. The event brought together 550 volunteers who traveled to one of 25 service sites in the Rochester area and performed 1,650 service hours. The students also learned about the community’s challenges and resources and how they could give back by providing needed services.

“We have an ongoing relationship with many of our partners,” said Adam Lewandowski, associate director for the college’s Center for Civic Engagement. “The Orientation Day of Service is an introduction for our students. It’s just one piece of our relationship.”

Of the 550 student volunteers, Lewandowski said 93% are expected to participate again in some form of service with their partner organizations, many of which also offer work-study or service-learning programs.

The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. held its 6th annual Freshman Day of Service in September. Students, faculty, and staff logged over 8,000 community service hours in one day! More than 2,400 freshmen worked alongside 44 local partners throughout the metropolitan D.C. area. Volunteers participated in community projects focusing on environmental sustainability, veterans’ affairs, community beautification, and healthy living. The goal was to introduce students to a variety of service opportunities.

In 2012, the University of Pittsburgh implemented their Orientation Day of Service to start the school year off with service and have a positive impact on their community.

“Each year we welcome hundreds of incoming students to participate in an afternoon of service to their community,” said Misti McKeehen, director of PittServes, a university-wide initiative to help build the culture of service within their campus and community.

According to McKeehen, approximately 667 new students performed over 2,000 service hours for over 20 organizations before even stepping foot in the classroom! While students typically learn about the university and their new campus during orientation activities, the day of service provided an opportunity to also hear about their community.

McKeehen said the orientation event acts as a catalyst and sets the act of service in motion for students to be committed to helping their community and gaining personal, academic, and career experience through volunteerism. Students have the opportunity to learn about new organizations and may be motivated to continue volunteering with that group during the year. “It allows them to see a different part of the Pittsburgh community in a different way. To see this before school even starts is huge.”

The University of Pittsburgh continues its’ mission of service throughout the school year. On October 18, IMG_3988they held their 7th annual Pitt Make A Difference Day, a University-wide service day held with 3,274 students serving over 115 organizations throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. Volunteers logged more than 13,000 hours in one day!

This event also kicked-off the school’s first annual Make A Difference Month to highlight the school’s ongoing commitment to service. “We want to engage the students so they can see their impact,” said McKeehen, who hopes volunteers using NobleHour to track their service will log over 1,000 hours by the end of the month-long event.

As an added incentive to participating, McKeehen said the student with the highest number of tracked hours will be able to make a service grant to the student organization of their choice. In addition, the student group with the highest average number of hours per member will also receive a grant to continue service.

Like many other universities, McKeehen said PittServes will also participate in the MLK Day of Service next semester, as well as a number of school-wide volunteer events in the spring. She believes the rise in public service is a result of a more connected world. “We see more and do more.”

When students get together with friends to help with disaster relief, or volunteer at a shelter or food bank, they share that experience on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. All of a sudden, 500 people know about their positive experience and wish they had been a part of it or maybe they will want to participate next time.

It’s like that old shampoo commercial – You tell two friends and then they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on. But now, it’s telling hundreds of friends and so on. According to Campus Connect, during the 2011-2012 academic year, 44% of students participated in some form of community engagement. These community engagement activities contributed to an estimated $9.7 billion in service to their communities. Let’s hope universities keep engaging their students and volunteers keep sharing their impact!

Does your school have a campus-wide day of service? Tell us about the Noble Impact you’re making in your community.

photos courtesy of University of PIttsburgh and Nazareth College










Topics: volunteering, community engagement, community service, service, Orientation, Day of Service, campus-wide service, Orientation Day of Service, MakeADifferenceDay

Six Ways to Honor Veterans All Year Long

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 07:56 AM

2185-12748859921mTqVeterans Day is celebrated on November 11. Established in 1954, the federal holiday honors the service of all U.S. military veterans. Seems to me though, these brave men and women should be honored every day of the year. Both my parents were Marines. My father retired as a Colonel and my mother a Captain. I believe she was in one of the first classes of women Marines, one of her proudest accomplishments. I never fully realized the importance of their commitment until I was an adult. Maybe it’s because they didn’t talk about it that often. I’m not really sure. I do feel that it is extremely important for all of us to recognize our troops and our Veterans and to teach our children about the sacrifices made.

In the military, “Got Your 6” means “I’ve Got Your Back.” In WWI, fighter pilots referenced the rear of an airplane as the six o’clock position. This term emphasizes the way military members look out for each other. Now it’s our turn - on Veterans Day and year round, here are six ways you, your family and your community can honor all who served in the United States Armed Forces.

  1. Send a letter of thanks to courageous Veterans. This simple act is so meaningful and can have a lasting impact. In fact, it is one of Operation Gratitude’s most urgent needs. Send a card to someone you know who has served in the Military or you can send multiple letters that fit in a standard size business envelope to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that seeks to meet the needs of and express appreciation to Active Duty and Veteran communities. They will forward the letters to Veterans. If you know a Veteran that would appreciate Letters of Gratitude, you can send his or her name, the war in which they served and their USPS address to opgratvolunteer1@yahoo.com.
  2.  Organize a collection drive or a “Care Kit Assembly” event. Engage friends and family, as well as church and school groups to collect needed items for Veterans. Operation Gratitude’s program delivers thousands of care packages to Military Veterans across the country. VA hospitals, nursing homes, and support organizations make requests for specific items. Their wish lists include everything from hats and scarves, to personal electronics, non-perishable snacks, and gift cards. You can also send donations directly through Amazon.com or donate to Operation Gratitude. Every $15 can cover the assembly and shipping costs to send packages.
  3. Recycle for Veterans! Collect old cell phones, iPads, and iPods, as well as inkjet cartridges, and laptop computers. Operation Gratitude receives money for items donated in their name and students can earn service hours while helping the environment!
  4. Take a Veteran to School Day.™  Show the Veterans in your community how much you value their commitment and sacrifice. Students can learn about character and strength, when Veterans bring history to life by sharing their stories.
  5. Volunteer at your local Veterans facility. The US Department of Veterans Affairs website can help you find the nearest facility in your state. 
  6. Use social media to #ThankAVet and help raise money! The HISTORY channel’s Thank A Vet social campaign will donate $1 for each Tweet using #ThankAVet. Donations will support three non-profits dedicated to helping Veterans: Team Rubicon, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), and America's VetDogs.

Continue to honor our Veterans everyday. Let them know, "You've Got their 6!" Tell us about the special men and women in your life that have served our country! Thank you to our Veterans for your bravery and your sacrifice.












Topics: Veterans Day, Honoring Veterans

Being Aware of Raising Awareness

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 @ 11:20 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

The end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is approaching and like many awareness campaigns, it has come under some criticism. Some argue that companies and large corporations get carried away jumping on the “pink bandwagon” in order to sell more, while donating a very small portion of money to actual research. The happy, positive pink ribbons perhaps detract from the true devastation of this disease and some survivors feel alienated by Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Furthermore, some of these companies, despite advertising about the fight against breast cancer, continue to use harmful chemicals, including carcinogens—cancer-causing chemicals—, in their production. Though these companies may appear to have good intentions, and indeed their vast visibility no doubt does raise awareness, it falls to consumers to be fully aware of the repercussions of their purchases. 

That’s not to say large corporations are the only ones at fault.  Critics also point to the average person for propagating some of the false-promises of simply raising awareness.  Social media makes it increasingly easy to promote “awareness” through one’s personal online presence.  However, it’s important to note that this heightened awareness should lead to more than just likes and retweets.  It’s important that awareness ignites action and empowers people with knowledge.

Charlotte Alter writes in Time Magazine, “‘Awareness’ is a virus that preys on well-meaning minds. It tricks us into thinking that thought is the same as action, that acknowledging something is the same as fixing it. Awareness is a problem masquerading as a solution.” 

It is important that when promoting awareness that our actions feed the momentum of a cause and not our vain desire to share with the digital world that we are altruistically aware of the cause.  A recent example of effective social media awareness is the ALS ice bucket challenge, which created immense amounts of awareness about this disease while also raising funds for research.  However, one might also argue that advertising one’s ability to waste clean water is a display of developed-world privilege, as almost 800 million people have little to no access to clean water. In terms of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, of course, no one is arguing against promoting awareness and preventative measures for breast cancer, but critics like Alter are arguing for better, more impactful awareness—awareness that starts action.  Rather than just hashtagging and liking, perhaps one can also make a donation to breast cancer research.  The key is to use our awareness to truly empower ourselves and others with knowledge.

In response to the critics of rampant, vain social media awareness, some people still argue that awareness campaigns alone are enough. As Scott Davis writes in Forbes, “If not a single extra dollar is raised in October, but one woman detects her early-stage breast cancer as a result of “going pink” awareness, then it is all worth it.” 

I’ll leave it for you to decide.  To what extent are you truly promoting awareness, and to what extent is that awareness igniting impactful change? 


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Opportunities to make a difference


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Opportunities to make a difference

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 @ 05:07 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Men can also have breast cancer, accounting for about 1% of cases. When detected early in the localized stage, over 98% of patients survive five years or beyond, according to the National Cancer Institute. The goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to encourage women to learn about the risk factors and to learn about taking early detection measures. Continue reading to learn how you can get involved. cancer-389921_640

Donate: Donating to breast cancer research is a simple way to get involved. Some organizations that collect donations for research include but are not limited to the Susan G. Komen organization, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. Donating is a direct, simple way to contribute to research that will help lead to better treatments and saving lives.

Fundraise and Organize: Organizing a fundraising event can encourage other people to donate with you. There are several ways to fundraise. Creating a donation page and sharing it online with friends and family can encourage people to make contributions. Additionally, you can be more creative by organizing your own fundraising event. The same organizations that collect donations (listed above) and many other online resources can provide information and resources on how to organize a fundraising event. If you take a look around at your social groups, you are sure to find a sizable amount of people whom you can encourage to participate. Whether its in your workplace, school, neighborhood, or immediate family and friends, it only takes one person to encourage others to make a positive change.

Volunteer: If you aren’t up for starting your own event but still want to be involved, you can find someone else’s event to volunteer for in your area. There are also many other volutneer opportunities that can connect you with a cause.

Share: Raising awareness about breast cancer is not just about donating time and money; it is also about empowering others. When people know more, they are better equipped they are to ensure their health and the health of those near to them. Sharing information through social media or word of mouth is a great way to help spread awareness to the people you know. Learn more the risk factors, or learn about early detection.

Community Changemaker Spotlight: Allison Greiner

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 @ 11:24 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

Going the Distance for Duchenne Awareness

Allison Greiner started Miles for Matthew, a fundraising event in Greensboro, NC that helps advance research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. By day, Greiner is a French teacher and a mother of three. She is fun, smart, energetic, and a little bit quirky, but most importantly she has a heart dedicated to doing the best she can for others. 

Miles for Matthew is a 5K/10K run benefitting research and awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

One of her sons, Matthew, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 2007 when he was 21 months old.  Duchenne is a genetic disorder that occurs mainly in boys where there is a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin.  Dystrophin is a protein needed to maintain muscle cell structure.  Without dystrophin, muscles degenerate over time, and the loss of their function can lead to further health problems.  Currently, there is no cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and it is the most common among incurable genetic disorders that affect children. 

In 2008, less than a year after receiving Matthew’s diagnosis, Greiner started Miles for Matthew, an annual 5K/10K race to raise money for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, an organization that helps fund research programs for Duchenne. The slogan for Miles for Matthew is “Hope Starts Here.”  After overcoming the initial shock of her son’s diagnosis, she explains, she knew she wanted to do something.  She knew she couldn’t cure him herself, so starting this race was her way of fighting for her son.  Greiner doesn’t recall where she got the idea to do a race, seeing as at the time she was not an avid runner herself, but she felt that it would be a good way to involve an entire community. 


This past Saturday was the sixth annual Miles for Matthew race. The program expands each year. Typically, about 300 runners register and 100 volunteers help on the day of the race, but Greiner is the sole organizer. This means that Greiner is responsible for planning the logistics, finding sponsors, marketing the event and more. 

When soliciting sponsorships, Greiner has a philosophy about keeping it within the community.  She believes in asking mostly local businesses to donate to the event, and in return she tries to always ask for support from places that she typically gives her business too. She believes that this creates a “beautiful partnership” between the fundraising event and local entrepreneurs.  Sponsorships help fund the event itself, and this is very important to Greiner because her goal is that all of the money given by the runners for race day goes directly toward research.

Sending emails and following up with sponsors can also take quite a bit of time. However, each year it becomes easier, as over time she has built a network of contacts that expect her to contact them about sponsorships. Community support also makes Marketing a little easier. Community members are very supportive by sharing Miles for Matthew by word of mouth and through social media. A graphic designer, advertiser, and some local businesses with advertising space help promote the event. Thanks to a supportive community, for the past six years Greiner has been able to organize this event that brings hope to her family and to the families of other boys with Duchenne.

Greiner explains the personal impact of starting this event: “the rewards personally are really profound.  It’s just phenomenal, the amount of people that want to help.” Her biggest takeaway from this experience is that she is glad she has been open about the hardships of Duchenne and created something that allows other people to help.  People around her want to be supportive, but there is only so much they can say to help, and they are not always sure what they can do. Miles for Matthew gives them an opportunity to do something impactful.  “People in this community are really generous with their time and donations and moral support,” said Greiner.

The impact of Miles for Matthew can be measured in several ways.  The race has been very successful in bringing awareness to the local community. After the first two years, Greiner decided to change the location from Bur Mill Park to Lindley Park near Matthew’s school.  Having the runners run near Matthew’s school and around the neighbourhood increases visibility for the event.  To date, the 2014 Miles for Matthew campaign has raised over $26,000 for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.  Miles for Mathews is “one event in a plethora of events,” Greiner said. “. . . collectively, that’s making a larger impact.”

Though she is humble about the impact of her local event in comparison to the grand scheme of things, I would argue that the change she has brought to her son’s life and to this community is bolder than what most individuals would dare to enact.  People like Allison Greiner are community change-makers because making a positive impact is part of their everyday lives. 

For more information about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or to make a donation, go to parentprojectmd.org. Learn more about Miles for Matthew by watching the video below:



10 Ways to Celebrate Grandparents Day

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sun, Sep 07, 2014 @ 03:37 PM

National Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 7. Despite popular belief in my household, Hallmark™ mother-blk-drs-300did not create this holiday. In fact the idea originated in 1970 when Marian McQuade, a housewife in West Virginia, initiated a grassroots campaign to set aside a special day just for Grandparents. McQuade felt deeply about the lonely elderly in nursing homes and was also a tireless advocate for senior citizens rights. After three years of working with civic, business, church, and political leaders, West Virginia Governor Arch A. Moore proclaimed the first National Grandparents Day. McQuade didn’t stop there. She petitioned governors in 49 states to follow West Virginia’s lead and set aside a Grandparents Day. Forty-three of those states declared it a holiday. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as the official National Grandparents Day.

McQuade passed away in 2008, but many of her descendants carry on her legacy through the National Grandparents Day Council, a non-profit established to protect and promote the original intent of National Grandparents Day as championing the elderly.

So in honor of Marian McQuade and all the wonderful grandparents out there, we’ve come up with a list of 10 ways to celebrate the day and honor your grandparents! Whether they are near or far, you can honor them year round.

  1. Pick up some take-out, bring your laptop and your cell phone, and get grandma and grandpa connected! Show them how to use e-mail and Facebook to connect with friends and family that live out of town. Set them up with Skype or FaceTime so they can see their grandkids! Turn them in to cyber seniors and then, make sure you can keep up with them!
  2. Help them create a YouTube video! Get Grandma to share her secret recipe for those chocolate chipcyber_Grandma cookies! 
  3. Get that video camera out or charge up your cell phone and start asking questions! Grandma and Grandpa have a lot of great stories! Ask them about what life was like when they were your age! Record their history so you have a keepsake and can share with others!
  4. I bet there’s a box of old photos at your grandparents’ house! Go old school and pick up an album or scrapbook. Spend the afternoon going through and labeling the photos. Let Grandpa share some great stories about the one that got away! Or, gather the photos, scan them, and add them to their new Facebook page! You can also put the photos on a disk and create a video with music for a great birthday or Christmas present!
  5. Pick up some poster board or get on Ancestry.com and create your family tree
  6. Take your grandparents to one of their favorite restaurants for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Turn off the phone, ask some questions, and listen!
  7. Get a group together to visit the elderly in nursing homes. Check in on elderly neighbors.  
  8. Take your grandparents to the movies or catch a baseball game together!
  9. Shop and cook one of your grandma’s favorite recipes together!
  10. Find opportunities to volunteer together! Helping others can make you both feel great! 

Enjoy this day and every day with your grandparents. Make sure Grandma and Grandpa post a comment about their special day on our NobleHour Facebook page! 


Photo of Marian McQuade courtesy of National Grandparents Day

Photo: Dolly Duplantier








Topics: volunteering, random acts of kindness, technology, connecting communities, social media, Grandparents Day, Family

Being an Effective Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Sep 05, 2014 @ 11:41 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

Volunteer coordinators help an organization run smoothly. They are the point of contact between the volunteers and the organization.  However, not many people know about this challenging and important field.  In order to understand what it means to be a volunteer coordinator, what skills it takes, and how one might get involved, I spoke with two volunteer coordinators at local organizations to gain their insight. 

Finding good volunteers is vital to the success of a non-profit.Carole Whisnant is the volunteer coordinator for The Salvation Army in Greensboro, NC.  She has been managing volunteers since 2008.  Prior to coming to Greensboro, she was an office manager in Atlanta, GA where she also worked with many volunteers. 

Kelli Crawford is the volunteer coordinator at the Greensboro Science Center.  She has been working in this position for three years now, and manages more than 750 volunteers a year. 

The responsibilities in a volunteer coordinator position are vital to the success of an organization.  Whisnant explained that her primary job is recruiting volunteers for our various programs and services, and that this job requires her to “wear many hats”.

Crawford elaborates on these different “hats” with something volunteer coordinators call the “Three R’s”—recruitment, retention, and recognition.  In terms of recruitment, volunteer coordinators must find volunteers for programs and advertise any volunteer opportunities.  At GSC, there are a variety of programs in need of volunteers, and part of Crawford’s job is making sure people are aware of those programs.

Volunteer coordinators are  also responsible for making sure that the people who are giving up their time to the organization have all the necessary tools and information to do the most good.  Retention depends on ensuring that volunteers feel like they are making a difference and getting the most out of the time they serve. Volunteers need to feel valued, and a volunteer coordinator makes sure they do. GSC  has two formal volunteer recognition events each year.

“We want our volunteers to be thanked often so they know how important they are to us. That makes them feel like they are a vital part of the organization” said Crawford.Volunteer coordinators must recruit, retain and recognize volunteers.

Fulfilling all of the responsibilities of a volunteer coordinator also involves learning and acquiring skills to deal with many other people.  A person must have certain skills and characteristics in order to efficiently manage hundreds of volunteers.  According to Whisnant, the three most important qualities for a volunteer coordinator are good communication skills, patience, and a good attitude.  Crawford agrees that communication is an important part of managing volunteers. “You have got to be able to talk to people. You’ve got to definitely be able to train people. You have to know how to convey info in a way that’s fun but also get your points across.  That’s a part of motivating your volunteers and making sure they know what expected of them.”

This ability to communicate stems from being a people person, says Crawford, “If you can’t relate to your volunteers, you’re not going to be successful.” Lastly, Crawford emphasizes the importance of organization.  She explains, “One of the things that they expect when they are giving their time freely to your organization is that you’re going to know what you are doing, and you’re going to have everything together.  If you tell them you’re going to do something they expect you to do it and to do it on time.  It’s really important to make that good impression.”

Local organizations that rely on volunteers also rely on skilled volunteer coordinators. It takes a certain type of person to keep volunteers informed and inspiring them to stay with your cause. Being organized, having the patience to work well with people, and communicating effectively are some of these most important skills a person needs to manage volunteers. 

For anyone contemplating a volunteer coordinator position, this is definitely both an exciting and difficult field.  Whisnant and Crawford both advise that this is not a job for just anyone.  “If you don't enjoy working closely with people then I would not recommend this field.  Working with volunteers can be very challenging and demanding,” said Whisnant. 

Crawford explains that, in her experience, one of the greatest challenges is knowing that there are only so many people wanting to volunteer, and even less who will be interested in your organization. The struggle comes from reaching all of those people who can be an asset to your organization.  However, on the flip side, Crawford also believes that, “It’s not really one of those careers that people set out to get into.” Instead, people usually get involved by volunteering or perhaps working with an organization, and then if a volunteer coordinator position opens up, their experience with volunteering may lead them to that direction in their career.  Though this is a difficult field, Crawford loves her job and ended our interview by saying, “It’s really rewarding because you are managing people who do this for the love of doing it, not because they are getting paid to do it.  You get to meet some the best people of your life.”

Special thanks to my two interviewees Carole Whisnant and Kelli Crawford. 

Back to School Bucket List: Volunteering & More

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 @ 03:24 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

The end of summer is approaching.  For me, this also means that soon my senior year of high school will begin, and I am troubled by the question, how did we get here? When the topic enters conversation, I find myself reminiscing with friends about the past three years. We are all wondering, how did we get here? and where did all of that time go? However, the most important question is not about how we arrived, but, where do we go from here? and it is this issue that make senior year such a pinnacle part of high school.  So, in beginning to answer the question where do I go from here? I have put together a list of personal, academic, and lifestyle goals for this year.

  1. Be Myself: Personally, high school has been a time where I have explored what it means to be High school students must prioritize their goals.myself. Adolescence is a time when a person begins to become self-conscious, which can at times be difficult if this entails a decrease in confidence or the pressure to conform to social norms. However, when I began high school and started at a new school with new people, I started to shed my shyness and to act more like myself around others rather than follow what I believed was expected of me.  This year, as I finish the last year of high school and begin to make concrete decisions about where do I go from here? I plan to continue to work on being comfortable being myself and deciding how my actions can better reflect the type of person I want to be.

  2. Start a Volunteer-Based Club: Throughout high school, I have been involved in volunteerism, through both school clubs and community organizations.  This year, I am working on starting a club in my own school which will incorporate service work in which students will help each other students in our school community with completing writing assignments and learning proofreading skills. 

  3. Meet Someone New: I am always looking tomeet and interact with new people.  I have been going to school with the same group of people and have many good friends, but there are still people in our school community I do not recognize. Regardless of who your friends are now, new friends can still be made in unexpected ways, and I hope that this year I will continue old friendships and start some new ones too.

  4. Track Volunteer Hours: I began tracking my service-learning hours in high-school because of the service-learning diploma program in our district.  Since then, volunteering as become more than checking off a box. It has become a vital and meaningful part of my life, and hour-tracking is my way of looking at my impact on the community.  I plan to document all my hours before graduation to earn recognition for my service work and to view my progress over four years. 

  5. College Applications: This is pretty daunting process, but now there is no avoiding it.  My goal is to manage my time, submit the best representation of myself possible, and to avoid leaving everything to the last minute.

  6. Read More: Each year, school becomes more difficult and challenging.  I think I spend less and less time reading for leisure because of a demanding schedule.  Sometimes the large amount of reading I do for school takes away from reading I would like to do for myself.  However, I think there are many benefits to reading, and I am usually adding more books to the list of books I want to read than I am reading.  I want to make time for the leisure reading I once had time for daily.  (Check out some of these interesting reads on volunteerism and social good). 

  7. Say Thank You: The person I am today and the path my life will take after senior year is the culmination of the time and attention of many important mentors and teachers.  I intend to express or reiterate my appreciation to these people for helping me have a successful and fulfilling high school experience.

  8. Volunteering can make the school year more meaningful.Give Back: Since freshman year, volunteerismhas become an increasingly important part of my life.This goal goes along with the previous in that volunteering is a way of saying thank you by giving back to the community.  This year will be no different, and I will continue to volunteer and search for new organizations to engage my time with. 

  9. Cope with Stress: School is like a never-ending to-do list, and sometimes there are moments when it does not seem possible to complete everything in the time I have.  I am usually pretty good at managing stress. For me, the best way to manage stress is to realize that being overly anxious does not ameliorate a situation. Time management is also a way I effectively manage stress.  This year I want to expand my management of stress from a mental approach to a physical approach by exercising more and trying to be more balanced health-wise.

  10. Keep in Touch: After graduation, we will all begin to go our separate ways. With today’s technology and social media, keeping in contact with old friends is easier than ever. However, when I say “keep in touch,” I mean more than just the occasional “selfie” in my newsfeed. What I mean by “keep in touch” is having meaningful conversations and making sure not to lose contact with the people close to me. 

  11. Appreciate Each Moment: There are many events, traditions, and milestones that take place in high school; at our school this includes event such as spirit week, prom, senior tea, convocation, graduation, etc.  It will be the last or only chance to savour these memories, and I intend on making the best of each moment. 

What are your goals for this school year?  How do you plan achieve them? to calculate your progress? 
Share in the comments below. 


"Schoolgirl with books on head" by CollegeDegrees360 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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