Club members enrolled in Teen Travel camp are doing more than just having fun this summer at the Boys & Girls Club of Trenton. More than 70 Club teens are building their character and making an impact in their own communities through various community service projects; taking the “In Our Own Backyard” approach to community service and volunteering.
“I really wanted to stress to the teens the importance of helping people in their own community first,” says Shannon Mack, Lead Teacher of Teen Travel. “It’s true that service is needed all around the world, but we can start right here, where the impact can be seen in our own neighborhoods.”
Since the first week of camp empty water jugs were placed at the front of the Boys & Girls Club doors to collect bottle tops for St. Jude Hospital. For every 1,000 caps collected, the hospital turns them in for funding to provide cancer treatment for one child.
The teens have collected seven, one-gallon water jugs full of bottle caps since the beginning of camp and hope to complete their project next week with a total of 1,000 caps collected!
“It’s a great feeling to know that doing something small like collecting bottle caps from the milk and soda that I drink every day can help save a child’s life,” says Aeriyanah Harris, 14, member of Teen Travel. “It makes helping others easy.”
Club teens design greeting cards each week that contain uplifting messages for senior citizens and individuals in local rehabilitation and nursing homes. On Friday, August 10, the entire teen travel camp will make an in-person drop off of their greeting cards to the local Waters Edge Nursing home to spend time talking and playing games with the residents.
In addition to making cards for the elderly, teens are giving back to their own Club by writing “thank you” cards to donors of the Boys & Girls Club. Each card is in the outline of a Club Kids’ hand; signed with a personal message from the Boys & Girls Club members saying thank you for all their support.
“Our donors give to the Club all the time and we are always thankful, but rarely do the kids have the opportunity to express their thanks too,” says Mack. “The teens are excited to make cards thanking donors, because many of them understand that these donors make participating in Teen Travel a possibility for them.”
Finishing the summer on a strong note, students from the teen camp will host a four week food drive for catholic charities allowing friends and families to donate canned goods.
“I stress to the teens regularly that every child is not as fortunate as they are,” says Mack. “They each have friends or classmates that may be homeless or going home each night without dinner. The food drive will help people that they are directly in contact with.”
“During the course of the summer teens are really getting a firsthand look at how they can make a difference in their community,” says Mack. “Now, when I ask for a volunteer for a service project, more than a dozen hands are raised, anxious to give back to others.”
Character & Leadership development is one of the three key youth development outcomes Club programs are designed to produce in Club members. This is one example of how the Boys & Girls Club of Trenton accomplishes the goal of developing productive, responsible and caring adults.