Last month, a group of teens from Syracuse Project 4 Our Teens, used their time off from school on Columbus Day to make a difference in the community.
Sixteen volunteers, participating in The SPOT's monthly community service event, served the holiday lunch at The Samaritan Center. There, they were greeted with a warm reception and heartfelt thanks by the patrons of the downtown soup kitchen, as well as the staff.
"It really felt like I was making a difference when there were people there who thanked us for our time and seeing it was nice seeing the smiles on their faces," said Sara Griffiths, a junior at Jamesville-Dewitt and one of the 16 participants.
The SPOT, the JCC's new teen center in Shoppingtown Mall, strives to uphold volunteerism as one of the four core principles of its programming. To that end, it runs regular volunteer events at least once a month. Just like all of its other programs, October's volunteer event was open to any teen in grades seven through 12 who wished to participate. Anybody who does receives a certificate recognizing the hours they contributed.
This latest trip to The Samaritan Center was not the first of these events, but it did showcase how effective this type of program can be as the teen center spreads its reach throughout the community and continues to involve larger numbers of teens in activities.
"I thought it went really well," said Griffiths, who is also a member of The SPOT's teen council. "There was a lot of involvement from the younger community, which is good. I thought the event and the idea of having volunteer opportunities like this is helpful because it gives you insight into how other people live."
At the Samaritan Center, the 16 participants - students at JD, Liverpool, Bishop Grimes and CBA - were put to work with various responsibilities. Some greeted the patrons and distributed trays and silverware. Others dished out the meal, which consisted of hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, a salad, fruit and dessert. Still others busied themselves washing dishes, serving juice, replenishing food and cleaning up afterwards.