Kids gather in Salt Lake City to provide a summer of service with United WayAugust 7, 2012
Author: Megan Gessel | The Salt Lake Tribunehttp://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home3/54619580-200/service-summer-united-kids.html.csp
Waving back her buoyant red curls, 5-year-old Katie Lloyd cheerfully draws a Crayola masterpiece: azure lines for the sky, a yellow circle for the sun, green parentheses for the grass. She takes pride in her work, scribbling purposefully and with zeal.
"I came here ‘cause my mom said it’s good for me and it’s really fun," she says as she continues to work. Meanwhile, other children at Katie’s table draw happily too, but this is no ordinary pass-the-time coloring game. Rather, as an event hosted by the United Way of Salt Lake’s Summer of Service, it’s a way to provide families the opportunity for community service, particularly by engaging young children.
A program that started with 2-1-1 six years ago before it merged with the United Way, Summer of Service focuses on children ages 5-18 to provide opportunities and recognition for service they give, with certificates awarded at summer’s close at the bronze, silver and gold levels depending on service hours. The United Way hosts events throughout the summer, like the project Katie and her mom attended on July 14 called "Kids Making A Difference," where families and youth gathered at the downtown SLC United Way to color service cards and compile brochures about the nonprofit’s programs.
Tiffany Lloyd, Katie’s mother and a West Jordan resident, said she brought Katie to the event to introduce her to service she can both participate in and enjoy.
"I just wanted to let her know that it’s good to volunteer, and now she’s excited [about it]," she said. "I thought she didn’t want to clean or build houses, so it’s nice there is something like this…I didn’t know there was much more for little kids."
Lloyd hinges on a primary goal of the United Way: showing that anyone can provide service and highlighting it as a family affair.
Heather MacDonald, a volunteer and community engagement director at the United Way, said this goal includes introducing children to volunteerism early on while providing a way for them to bloom.
"The [program] is great for kids because it gives them the opportunity to volunteer together. When kids grow up in that culture of service…it expands their view of communities," she said. "It’s also a great way to use skills they are learning at home, [like practicing] fine motor skills."
MacDonald, whose husband and baby also attended the service soiree, agreed with Lloyd that engaging the whole family is important.
"Some think of volunteering as only adults or seniors, but all can come," she said. "We love opportunities for families to get out because a lot of organizations don’t [do that], but you can do [service] with your family."
Other featured service events this summer include sorting at the Utah Food Bank on Aug. 9 and the program’s culminating event, a "Day of Caring" with volunteer recognition and packaging enough school supplies to fill a bus at Gateway on Sept. 8. Volunteers also participated in the program’s first summer event, helping prepare books for KSL’s Read Today family book festival on June 14. Last year, 236 volunteers participated in Summer of Service and provided 11,624 hours of service, according to MacDonald.
Although the coloring aspect catered more to younger children, older youth also saw value in attending the event and participate in Summer of Service.
Lila Thulin, a senior at Rowland Hall High School and president of her school’s Interact Club — a youth division of the Rotary Club — said she enjoyed the event because it was both purposeful and artistically engaging.
"I like that they are involving a lot of younger children and a mixture of more productive work and also the creative aspect," she said.
Thulin said she came simply looking for a way to serve and noted that "it’s important to help your community."
Although Summer of Service takes more of a sprinkling approach rather than plunging in with service, the United Way also has volunteers that devote time and effort over a lifespan or as part of a set group.
These include Anita Kammerdiener, a Layton resident who has volunteered with the United Way for more than 15 years. Kammerdiener brought her 8-year-old grandson, Ian, who also participated in Summer of Service last year, to help him learn the values of selflessness and building community.
"He learns it’s not all about him and he needs to help others and he likes it," she said. "Then he can share [that] with kids at school…being involved and knowing there are people in need and they can help other children…[they see] others need more than they do."
Another committed volunteer as a member of the United Way’s Young Leaders group, Sheldon Byde brought daughters Sophie, 9, and Zoe, 6, to the event to enjoy family time while teaching by example a pattern of giving.
"I thought it a good opportunity to let them get out and do something that will make them feel good," he said.
As she finished a crayon rainbow, his daughter Sophie agreed and said, "I’m drawing on cards ‘cause I don’t always get to do stuff like this for other kids and to help."
At least two dozen people attended the event, which went from 10 am to noon.
Summer of Service Events
June 14 » prepared books for KSL’s Read Today family book festival
July 14 » Kids Making A Difference event, where families gathered to color service cards and compile brochures
Aug. 9 » sorting at Utah Food Bank
Sept. 8 » Day of Caring with volunteer recognition and packing a bus full of school supplies