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Hope for a Better Community

We live in a world where there’s more negativity than positivity. While we may come across the occasional good news, such as people performing good deeds or animals doing cute things, our news is constantly flooded with negativity. As we watch the news and digest the information that's being fed to us, feelings of sorrow and pain develop. This causes some people to become activists, fighting for social justice, while others find different ways to impact our community, such as through volunteering at local nonprofits. Whatever way you choose, helping the community can give you hope for a better future.

What Caused My Involvement for Change

As a volunteer, I’m not the kind of person who wants to be a voice for contemporary, controversial topics (i.e., politics or religion) as it’s not my forte. Instead, I look and noticed that as Las Vegas continues to grow in population, more resources (i.e., food distribution sites, homeless shelters, etc.) are needed to help the city thrive.

In my final year of high school, my involvement in community service started. I took a course in mentorship where seniors mentored first-year students by providing the resources they need as they began their high school journey. We would give them a tour of the campus and meet with teachers and staff so they wouldn't feel inundated during their first semester. My teacher then assigned mentors and mentees a couple of community service activities. A few mentors and mentees joined my mentee and me at our nearby Goodwill where we organized donated items so that they can become merchandise. The entire experience left a huge impact on us. We realized that we should be grateful for what we have, and this lesson inspired us to continue getting involved in our community.

Community Service in College

When I wanted to join a registered student organization (RSO) at UNLV, I chose the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) (UNLV chapter). Through the meetings I attended, I learned how the club functions, along with its pillars: scholarships, leadership, and service.

One day, the chapter president emailed the members about a community service event they were hosting at a local nonprofit organization called Spread the Word Nevada. When my loved one and I arrived, we were told that the organization’s mission statement focuses primarily on children; they believe that every child deserves to have an education so they can have a bright future. At our table, we received a big container with the donated books where we inspected, cleaned, and placed in a box. If the book was damaged, we discarded them. The box will be removed by the staff and the books inside would be distributed to the children.

When the staff gave the volunteers a tour of the warehouse where all of the uninspected donated books were located, it mesmerized everyone to see all the donations they've collected, and we were proud to be a part of the change in children’s education. To add, we saw people from different organizations (i.e., local high schools) volunteer there. This tells me that people are coming together to help an organization prosper, especially if it involves helping people in need. The staff was friendly yet professional and aided participants when needed. It felt like a win-win situation for everyone; participants put time aside to volunteer and de-stress, while the organization provides them with the tools and experience they need and benefit from the assistance of the volunteers. After leaving the place, my loved one and I were impressed with how the organization worked. The overall environment provides so much positivity to everyone that it keeps the energy flowing. As a result of that, we decided to continue helping the organization.

Volunteering at Spread the Word Nevada encouraged me to become more active with the chapter, so I decided to run for an officer position, Vice President of Community Service. In that role, one is responsible for getting their section involved in the community by arranging volunteering events. When I got the role, I knew that we had to continue volunteering at Spread the Word Nevada. However, they weren’t the only organization the chapter wanted to help.

Initially, I planned to have the chapter partner with one organization, but when a couple of officers wanted to collaborate with other nonprofits, I immediately supported them. So we decided to partner with three organizations. Knowing that food is an essential part of our lives, I talked with my teammates about potentially partnering with Three Square Food Bank here in Las Vegas and they agreed. Three Square Food Bank spotlights food insecurity and distributes meals to locals in Southern Nevada (Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln, and Nye counties). So when I contacted a representative from the organization, they set up a virtual fundraiser link for us to share with our followers.

Alongside Three Square Food Bank, the UNLV chapter also collaborated with another local nonprofit called Friends For Life Humane Society. This organization works on rescuing and caring for homeless dogs in hopes that they find a forever home. Finally, along with some of the university chapters of NSCS, we teamed up with Active Minds, a partner of NSCS, who center their goals around mental health for college students.

To accompany the fundraisers, the chapter set up a table on campus and sold handmade scarves and pastries. When buyers came to purchase either a scarf or a pastry, they had the choice to pick which organization they could donate to. For example, each handmade scarf costs $10, so when they buy a scarf, they can donate the $10 to either Three Square Food Bank, Active Minds, or Friends For Life Humane Society.

When all fundraisers finished, each organization collected their donated funds and used them to help those in need. I’m glad that I helped the UNLV chapter partner with three different organizations because we wanted to provide as much assistance to these nonprofits as possible. It was a lot of work done by the chapter because we wanted to make sure these fundraisers were successful. In the end, this experience was worth it because our contributions brought hope to a better community.

Eventually, my graduation made me step down from my position and leave the chapter. However, my experience from the chapter gave me hope in making the world a better place. I'm grateful to my team for supporting my ideas to help the community and for their hard work in making those ideas happen.

Let’s Bring Hope!

Volunteering in local nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations gave me the opportunity to help people. Children and education along with food and mental health are topics that mean a lot to me. If there are more organizations in Las Vegas that target these topics, I would like to contribute my time there because I want to keep bringing positive change to the city.

Since graduation, I continued to volunteer at Spread the Word Nevada to clean and organize books and also partnered with Three Square Food Bank to organize more virtual fundraising events for groups that I’m a part of. Recently, UNLV Volunteers held a volunteering event that takes place every semester called Service Day. There, I worked at the campus community garden spreading mulch around the trees and planting crops. Now, I volunteer my time with the Love Yourself Foundation as a blog writer where I share some of my life stories in hopes that they will help anyone out.

So, are you thinking about helping your community but don’t know where to start? Think about the topics that affect you the most and do some research on where you can volunteer. A little tip: try to start your quest for change in your city/town. Your community is the easiest to change, so start by making that change a positive one. This is what I do because it’s easier for me to contribute my time and efforts in making the world a better place.

If I didn’t take the mentorship class in high school or join NSCS (UNLV chapter), I don’t think I’d be volunteering much or at all. Volunteering really changed my life. I’m more open-minded and empathetic to my surroundings. Plus, community service became a hobby of mine. Every month, I take the time to do a community service initiative in order to keep giving back. Examples include donating items to Goodwill, sending care packages to my family overseas, etc.

If you’ve never volunteered, I totally recommend it. Life will continue to change, but if we find ways to help each other out, there will be more hope in our community. It’s our responsibility to set an example for the next generation if we want the world to change for the better. We have to show them what the world is and give them options on how to contribute to society in a positive manner. The more good deeds we do, the sooner our community will heal.

If you have volunteered before, what was your experience like? Feel free to share below.

About the Author:

Ashley Lee is an alumna of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Film with a minor in Journalism and Media Studies. She is a freelance filmmaker and journalist who enjoys traveling, audio production, volunteering at local nonprofits, writing, photography, and spending time with her family. Lee is also a co-host of a local Las Vegas podcast.

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