Guest post by the First Lady of Delaware, Carla Markell.
Four years ago, Wilmington’s H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club nearly closed its doors, ending the phenomenal services they provide children at critical times in their development. When my husband, Jack, his staff and I signed up to paint the building as a community service project, we learned the building had much more serious problems: a need for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system repairs, faulty boilers and a leaky roof, to name a few.
It was a dispiriting situation; however, the disappointment spawned a great Delaware success story. A combination of efforts by businesses, community leaders and kindhearted volunteers transformed the facility from an apparent state of disrepair into a welcoming place with a bright future for serving area children.
Astra-Zeneca stepped in with initial seed money to help with HVAC, electric and roof repairs. Other companies followed, providing for renovations of the computer lab and lobby, new electronic equipment, furniture and a book drive. Meanwhile, compassionate citizens who never gave up on Fletcher Brown donated increasing amounts of their time to run programs at the center. The effort at the Brown club inspired additional companies, foundations and individuals to come forward to renovate the Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club.
Project Renewal has demonstrated the chance for every individual to make a difference, as well as the endless possibilities to build a better Delaware when we all work together. With continued community support and wonderful leadership from the Boys and Girls Club Board, this effort was duplicated during the 2013 Governor’s Week of Service Kick-Off and April Week of Service at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Renovations and upgrades also are underway at the Smyrna-Clayton facility, including a new roof, electrical system and flooring. If you are interested in taking part in the project, please contact Sharon Biddle at 658-1870.
At the Wilmington, Smyrna and Laurel facilities alone, more than 1,700 kids ages 6-14 attend the after-school programs. Sixty percent of club youths come from low-income families. Students receive assistance with schoolwork, pursue interests from arts to athletics and have a safe place to grow, learn and build great futures.
Project Renewal represents just one of hundreds of programs run by nonprofits, schools and other organizations to help Delaware reach its potential. They mentor children, deliver meals to seniors and serve the disabilities community. Others renovate dilapidated buildings, beautify our natural resources and give struggling families a path to self-sufficiency. Almost none can reach their goals without volunteers.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has confirmed Delawareans’ commitment to serving others, even after many volunteers’ families were hit hard by the national recession. Our state had the greatest percentage increase (5.3 percent) in volunteering from 2010-11.
According to CNCS, in 2011:
• 65.4 percent of Delawareans did favors for their neighbors.
• 186,760 people volunteered.
• 21.2 million hours of service were performed.
• $462.8 million of service was contributed.
Giving back goes well beyond specific acts of service. It offers a sense of purpose, provides opportunities for physical activity and helps build social relationships, while binding us together and enhancing our sense of community. As the only state that offers a Volunteer Credit for high school students, we must support efforts that give our next generations ways to contribute in their communities. According to a study by CNCS, volunteering even makes us healthier, as shown by lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and less depression later in life among those who volunteer.
The weeks of service held each year since Jack became governor have given us the opportunity to highlight the incredible outpouring of kindness displayed toward friends, neighbors and total strangers every day across our state. We’ve been proud to join the thousands of mentors and tutors who provide that extra measure of support and encouragement for Delaware’s children. At shelters, food banks and mobile health clinics, we’ve seen those who are more fortunate offering comfort to individuals facing hard times.
As part of increasing momentum behind volunteerism, Jack and I will present the Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards this fall. You can nominate Delawareans who have performed extraordinary service in our communities by visiting www.volunteerdelaware.org. It’s important that we demonstrate our gratitude to those who make a special commitment to keeping Delaware a wonderful place to grow up, work, raise a family and retire.
While you’re on the site, I hope you will seek out opportunities to get involved with one or more of the many organizations listed. If you have any questions or want to participate, please contact Carrie Hart at 857-5006 or email@example.com.
There are ways to get involved that tap into everyone’s strengths. I encourage you to use them as a chance to follow your passion. Together, we can replicate the story of Fletcher Brown across our state, improving the lives of Delawareans and creating a positive and healthy future for all.
This blog was originally published in the News Journal.