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Service Over Self: Helping Those In Need Locally

By Anna Grace Keller, Ponte Vedra High School Junior, Class of 2022

Service over self. This is a phrase I honestly never heard much before this school year, where I started exploring the possibility of furthering my academics through ROTC in college, which is a program that places service in high regard. Being native Ponte Vedrans and parishioners at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, my family has always emphasized the importance of community service from both a religious sense and as just a way to give back to the community that we have grown up in. One thing I always admired about my parents is that they would just randomly sign us up to do acts of service around the Jacksonville area as a family, whether it be making and serving dinner at the St. Francis House or beautifying the yard of the Mission House in Jacksonville. This really resonated with me, as they are both extremely busy and hardworking individuals but would make time in their schedules to show to us how important service is. Recently my sister, who attends the University of Notre Dame (Go Irish!), was talking about a question they were discussing in their philosophy class regarding whether it was better to be in a job where you directly help people in need or better to be in a job where you might help more indirectly through financial aid, etc. Candidly, there’s no one right answer and that’s why the question was brought up in a philosophy class and not a math class. However, it made me start to think about my own community. We have such diverse workers and occupations and come from all walks of life and that’s what makes our community special.

So, this “service over self” mindset. It doesn’t just apply to the religious clerics and owners of soup kitchens. Everyone can take this mindset on, no matter if you’re in Corporate America, a healthcare worker, a janitor, or a stay-at-home parent. Put yourself aside once a week or once a month and do something within your capacity to give back to the community and serve. 

To assist in the brainstorming process of how to get started serving your community, I am going to share some service ideas around the community from my own personal experience. 

  • Volunteer as a blood donor. Blood and convalescent plasm donations are always important, but their need is heightened in the COVID19 pandemic. OneBlood does a fantastic job at providing accessible means to do this, and ensures that all CDC health guidelines are followed for public safety. To find a site near you or to learn more, visit OneBlood.
  • Make bags to give out to the homeless or poor. My family tries to do one bigger service project each year around the holidays. One thing that we did that I especially liked was we made bags for the homeless. To do this, it’s super simple and can get the whole family engaged. Buy brown paper bags, and in them, put a granola bar, a PB&J sandwich, a bottle of water, a fast-food gift card or grocery gift card, socks, travel-size shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and an aluminum rescue blanket. To personalize the bags, write a brief note just saying hi to the person. Store a few bags at a time in your car, and be sure to give them out whenever you see the need! You will find great ideas in this article.
  • Volunteer as a coach or mentor. This act of service is probably more geared towards older teens or adults, but is a fairly simple one and involves you signing up to advise youth with your expertise, whether that be in a sport or professionally. Whether it be coaching a soccer team, teaching underprivileged communities how to play volleyball, or hosting a class at a recreation center about what job opportunities the scientific field holds, there is always a need that can be met. 
  • Organize a clothing drive. I’ve actually organized a book drive myself last year, and let me tell you, organizing a drive of any type is much more daunting than it actually is. Candidly, I asked my family members for some of their friends’ emails and combined with my own contact book, I sent out emails to people just asking if they had any extra books to donate. The same can be done with clothes, and there are a lot of homeless shelters and centers for the poor that would happily accept donations.

As you can see, there are so many opportunities for you to serve in the community and give back to the place you call home. Hopefully, the one act of service will turn into two, and the two community members participating will turn into four. After all, if we’ve learned anything in this pandemic, it’s that we are strong individuals and an even stronger community.

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