Young volunteers helped out during day of service
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | January 22,2013
BENNINGTON — Anyone who believes that the current generation of young people isn’t community-minded may have had an eye-opening experience in Bennington on Monday.
AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers hosted a day of activities for people to get involved with their local nonprofits on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and many of those who participated were college students, teenagers and even pre-teens who came with their mothers to prepare a meal for the Bennington County Meals on Wheels program at the Bennington Senior Center.
At the Thatcher House on Pleasant Street, a half dozen teenagers helped out by painting and cleaning the bathroom and kitchen for the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless.
Jordan Thompson, 13, of Bennington, who was there with a youth outreach organization from United Counseling Services called Teens 4 Change, said he “enjoys helping people who need it.”
“I could have been doing whatever (but) I’d rather spend my time, instead of spending my day at my house doing nothing, coming out in the community working for others,” he said.
Stephanie Marriner and her friend, Casey Greene, both 15, and both of Berlin, N.Y., were cleaning a bathroom Monday morning. Greene is one of the youth ambassadors for the Alliance for Community Transformations, and she brought Marriner along with her to lend a hand.
“I think (after volunteering) I was more aware of how I spend my time or waste my time cause if I wasn’t here, I would probably be home on my iPod or surfing the Internet or doing random things when I could be here helping someone. This is a much better use of my time,” Greene said.
Marriner added that the experience was an “eye-opener.”
“I didn’t really think about all the stuff that I have that I take for granted. Coming here, I (realized) ‘Well, they don’t really have the same privileges and opportunities,’” she said.
Kris Hansen, a teacher at Mount Anthony Union Middle School, said she brought her two children, Owen, 10, and Kira, 12, to the senior center because she found King inspirational and liked the idea of making the holiday a “day on” for volunteering instead of a “day off.”
“So far it’s turning out to be pretty cool. I like the idea that they’re here and seeing what the Meals on Wheels kitchen is all about. They’re getting right into the thick of things and helping to prepare the meals,” she said.
Jennifer Rohn, who teaches at Bennington College, said she brought her 9-year-old daughter Anya after learning about the event from Hansen. She said the two of them have been volunteering for several years at the Temple Beth El Synagogue in Bennington.
“Those have all been wonderful experiences for her... She loves to serve people and help. It’s something I see in her that I really want to give an opportunity to grow and develop,” she said.
Southern Vermont College students helped out by painting at the First Baptist Church. The Rev. Jerrod Hugenot, coordinating minister at the church, said the students were asked to help out in the parts of the church that are frequently used for community good.
First Baptist houses a free clinic and serves as a site for American Red Cross blood drives, among other community services.
Student Adrian Duncan-Headley said he found the painting a “relaxing” way to provide a community service.
Karoline Chrzanowki-Sears, director of student involvement for Southern Vermont College, said most of the 13 students who were volunteering on Monday were there as part of leadership training for the college.
“Part of being a leader is giving back and being involved,” she said.