Blair students, faculty and staff fanned out to assist nonprofits and neighbors across New Jersey and Pennsylvania as part of the School’s fifth-annual Day of Service on May 18. With more than 500 volunteers tackling projects ranging from gardening and environmental conservation efforts to visiting with elderly nursing home residents and preparing food at a soup kitchen, Blair students and teachers did their best to give back to the local community, and it was a fulfilling day for all those who participated.
Noting that this year’s program was slightly different in that volunteers were involved in new kinds of project work, including supporting a local hospice, Day of Service organizers Joanne Brandwood and Kaye Evans were gratified to see so many in the school community excited about making service their number-one priority for the day.
“Service is fun, and stepping away from academics, the arts and athletics to focus on the needs of those around you exposes our students, some of whom may not have volunteer experience, to the many different kinds of opportunities that are available,” said Mrs. Brandwood, who teaches history and coordinates Blair’s Service Corps activities with English teacher Mrs. Evans year-round. “We have found that students who give service a try as part of this day find they want to do more and more of it, both at Blair and after they leave campus.”
A Personal Story of Lifelong Service
As has become tradition, the day kicked off with an all-school assembly, at which Blair Leadership Stories Coordinator Gina Trish spoke to students about the importance of public service. “For the last several years, I have filmed your leadership stories and heard about the things you have done to serve,” said Mrs. Trish. “Today, I would like to talk to you about my own service and why you should continue to seek it out in your life, too.”
Admitting that she is an introvert who fell into volunteer opportunities in college, she explained how her quiet nature in many ways held her back and that she came to the realization that she needed to get out of her comfort zone and try new things. “If I didn’t break out of my notion of what I thought I was capable of, I’d never learn anything new,” she explained. “For my causes, I have stepped away from what I am comfortable with.” She went on to talk about a yearly fundraiser she organizes and a town park she helped conceptualize and create.
“Though the changes that will happen from your projects today will be small, they will be impactful,” Mrs. Trish concluded. “When you volunteer, I want you to remember, there is no limit to what you can do. Volunteering is 100-percent inclusive, and we all have strengths to contribute.”
Fanning Out Across the Region
Following the assembly, students, faculty and staff left campus for their project work, which included initiatives sponsored by the Blairstown Enhancement Committee and Blairstown Township. This year’s activities also supported “Blair in Kenya,” the independent nonprofit founded by history teacher Quint Clarke ’87, which has provided vital educational, medical and economic opportunities to hundreds of Kenyans over the last 12 years. To date, the Day of Service yard sale supporting that organization has raised almost than $8,000 for the cause; in fact, it has been so successful that Mrs. Brandwood and Mrs. Evans are considering making the sale an ongoing project throughout the year.
Building Community Connections
In addition to encouraging students to discover a love for helping others, the Day of Service aims to give back to Blair’s neighbors and organizations that can benefit from the combined efforts of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers.
“For the last five years, we have built the School’s relationship with our community, and being part of that has been fun and meaningful,” said Mrs. Evans. “Even more exciting is the fact that we are starting to be known for our annual Day of Service, and organizations are starting to come ask us to support them. Of course, we are proud to say our volunteers have been very well received because of the great work they do. We are unbelievably proud of all of them, and their dedication says a lot about Blair and the people in our community.”
The day concluded with an all-school picnic, at which students and teachers celebrated their hard work and the impact those efforts had across Blairstown and surrounding areas. “After five years, the Day of Service has become one of the newest Blair traditions, one that demonstrates the best of what it means to be a part of the Blair community,” Mrs. Brandwood said.