April event highlights local volunteers

Student volunteers spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 18, filling food boxes for the community as part of a Leadership and Volunteerism initiative. During the #ServetheShoals event in April, volunteers can post pictures of service work they are doing to social media. “Really, it’s to just draw attention to the fact that there are a lot of really great things happening in this area with people helping one another and reaching out to one another,” said Assistant Director of Student Engagement Bethany Green.

People know the Shoals for its music, but there is more happening here every day they may not be aware of. One group of women plans to change that.

Andrea Holt, Executive Director for Court Appointed Special Advocates, first presented the idea to highlight local volunteers to Chelsea Kauchick, Shoals Chamber of Commerce Director of Marketing and Leadership Programs and Executive Director of Keep the Shoals Beautiful.

The women shared their ideas with Beth Haddock, Director of United Way, and Bethany Green, Assistant Director of Student Engagement.

They came up with the #ServetheShoals social media event that began April 1.

“The idea behind it is, because April is National Volunteer Month, why not, for those 30 days, ask people to basically document their volunteer service,” Green said.

People can take pictures of their volunteer work and post to social media, she said. They should include a short description of what they are doing and use #ServetheShoals.

Kauchick said the biggest goal is to raise awareness about local volunteers.

“Really, it’s just to draw attention to the fact that there are a lot of really great things happening in this area with people helping one another and reaching out to one another,” Green said.

Kauchick said Holt came to her with the idea of wanting to celebrate local volunteers.

She said she told Holt about a program she is doing with Keep the Shoals Beautiful and kindergarten through sixth-grade students to highlight how they are cleaning up the community.

“We’re asking them to post a photo of themselves picking up trash or recycling and use the hashtag #IKeeptheShoalsBeautiful,” she said

She said she thought this would be one way to celebrate the local volunteers and suggested the idea to Holt.

“We just started talking,” Kauchick said. “It was fast. These gals just pulled it together.”

Green said volunteers do not have to work through an agency.

“It can just be a daily out of the goodness of your heart kind of thing,” she said.

Volunteering is important because it is a good way of giving back to the community, said freshman Brayan Patlan.

“For me, it makes me happy knowing that I was able to help someone and make them happy, so I always feel accomplished,” he said.

Green said students unsure of ways to volunteer can visit the Leadership and Volunteerism website and look under the Serve the Shoals tab to find volunteer requests from local agencies.

If students do not see a volunteer opportunity that interests them on the website, they can ask her for other possible opportunities, she said.

Volunteers contribute to making the world a better place, said junior Dominic Summerhill.

“I think volunteering is the best expression of human emotion,” he said. “It’s people acting on behalf of the communities where they grew up and currently live.”

Loving and helping others is important, said senior Tia Nall.

“Our society places value on a lot of things, including ourselves,” she said. “It is so important to take the time to look beyond our own needs and consider the needs of others as more important than our own.”

The women are still working out details, Green said.

Though they have not chosen a venue yet, when the event is over there will be a celebration, she said. At the celebration, they will select a random grand prize winner from all the pictures posted.

“(It’s) just as a small way of saying, ‘Hey thanks, you’re doing some awesome stuff,’” she said.

Green said she hopes people participate.

“If people don’t do it, we can’t see it,” she said. “That’s the whole concept, to actually see it and let others see it. It’s an effort to bring the community together when it comes to service.”

Kauchick said this event will also help educate people on the number of nonprofits in the area and what each of them does.

“I’m really excited about it, just because working here at the Chamber we deal with volunteers all the time, and there’s only so many times you can say thank you,” Kauchick said. “I’m amazed at how much people give back to their community even though they’ve got so much going on. It’s just amazing to me what people can accomplish.”

More information about the event is available at servetheshoals.org.