Residential Program > Community Service

We are always looking for new and innovative ways to motivate and educate the young people who come to the United Methodist Home for children. Helping our children find new ways of looking at their world, new experiences and options for their own choices, new guides and examples for their journey through life are constant concerns for our staff. While discussing these things and looking for additional ways of positively impacting our youth, the supervisory staff of the Child Care Department came across some very interesting data regarding the benefits of community service on young people.

We found a growing body of research showing that student participation in service-learning and volunteer activities is associated with improved academic achievement, higher self-esteem, a heightened sense of self-worth, improved interpersonal and leadership skills, and enhanced sense of social and personal responsibility, and a belief that people can make a difference in their communities. In addition, participation in service-learning and volunteer programs gives students the opportunity to step outside their usual surroundings and gain a new perspective on cultural, racial, and economic diversity in the communities, states, and nation as a whole, and new attitudes toward populations in need.

Still more research has found that community service helps to "fill in the gaps" in socializing young adults, by providing them with community models and fostering community action and reflection, both tied to the development of prosocial values. Several studies have provided evidence of the success of community service programs in instilling and developing positive characteristics in youth. For example, youth who participate in community service programs report an increased commitment to "giving back" to their communities, tend to become more charitable, and demonstrate a decrease in participation in antisocial behaviors such as violence and drug and alcohol abuse. In short, performing community service allows a student to realize the importance of how individual responsibility helps with real community needs.

So, in 2001, with all of this information in hand, the UMHC Residential Child Care Department created the UMHC Residential Community Service Program. In this program, each of the cottages at UMHC Residential is responsible for meeting to discuss the importance of community service with their young people, working with their young residents to create a list of ideas for community service projects, contacting the agencies and individuals who may need projects performed, and then planning and carrying out the projects. Each cottage is responsible for performing at least one project each session of the year and one additional project during the Christmas holiday.

Since its inception, the UMHC Residential Community Service Program has performed nearly 900 hours of service throughout the central Pennsylvania area. Our young people have served meals to the homeless at Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg, helped with cleaning and other chores at the Humane Society, and assisted in the Sertoma Club of Harrisburg with their "Fright Night" activities on City Island. Our youth have also helped out at the Boy's Club, YWCA Women's Shelter, township and municipal parks, West Shore Baseball Association, Central PA Food Bank, Mechanicsburg Library, Ducks Unlimited, and many more. The efforts of our residents and their staff is a tribute to them and what can be achieved when people work together to benefit others.

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