By Denise Bourne, Administrative Assistant, Fine Arts Office
When I first agreed to volunteer for the Peace and Justice Institute Spring Fling at the Coalition for the Homeless on Saturday, March 25, 2017, I didn’t have any expectations. But I rallied my fellow members of the Fearless Leaders Standout and Step Dance Team and my daughter to join me and, together, we experienced what would become an enlightening adventure.
As the event began, it was so nice to meet with the children at the Coalition and their parents. There was so much to do, everyone wanted to work and help one another.
During the event, I met a young girl who really touched my heart. She was very particular about everything she did during the event. I think she was about 7 years old. She knew exactly how she wanted her face painted and things she wanted to use to bling out her gift bag. But the one thing that really stood out to me was, when the dance team began to teach various steps to the children, how competitive and focused she was to learn the steps. It was inspiring to see that she wasn’t willing to quit no matter how difficult the step routine was for her.
I had an opportunity to speak with her parents and hear their story. They moved to Orlando from Maryland and fell on hard times. The only place they could go was the Coalition, so their daughter could have a roof over her head. At first, my heart went out to them because no one should have to go through this. But to see the joy on their faces despite their situation made me smile, because they still had each other. This was so moving to me, because we sometimes forget what is most important: family and staying together. The beautiful thing about the Coalition is that it not only provides shelter to women, children and men, but they house families.
I asked my daughter about her experience at the Coalition and she said, “To witness all walks of life come through the Coalition doors was life changing. I am 17 years old and, before I attended the Coalition, I thought I had a good perception of life, but, being there, my view had changed. The Coalition made me realize that not everyone is raised the same way I was, and we need to help people every chance we get. We have a duty to help people in need, and I started to fulfill some of that duty during the event. When I walked in, I immediately gravitated to the kids especially because they wanted to dance. They were very eager to learn some of the steps and moves, so we began to teach them. When the children’s parents witnessed their excitement, they started to open up to us. They began to share with us their trials and tribulations, some of which we have not experienced or could even imagine. They also began to express how small things like the photo booth, bounce house, food and other activities for the kids meant so much to them. I wholeheartedly enjoyed every bit of the Coalition and can see myself participating again next year. It’s definitely an experience everyone should have.”
The dance team members also expressed that they would love to be part of this event again next year. One of the strategic pillars for Valencia is to “Involve the College in meeting the community’s needs and goals.” After this rich experience and in the spirit of Valencia’s commitment to community, the team thought it would be nice to do something great for the children and their parents, like bring classes to the Coalition to help the ones who desire to move forward in their lives.
The Spring Fling is a bi-annual service event sponsored by the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) to bring students, clubs and the Valencia community together in service of families and women in residence at the Coalition for the Homeless. This year, we had more than 80 volunteers who represented more than 10 clubs. If you would like for your campus group to be involved in the next service project, please contact Krystal Pherai, staff assistant II, and PJI at email@example.com.
Throughout Valencia’s 50th anniversary year, to celebrate the College’s service to our community, we will feature stories of Valencia’s community impact and the volunteer efforts of our colleagues. Whether you volunteer as a board member of a foundation or you serve meals to the homeless, we want to hear about it because every act of kindness is worth celebrating. To submit a Valencia volunteer story, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org the following information:
- Your name
- Your photo (preferably of you volunteering)
- Where you volunteer and a description of the organization
- How long you have volunteered with that organization
- Why you choose to volunteer with that organization
- What you enjoy most about volunteering with that organization