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Making a Difference with Service Projects

Posted about 1 month ago by April S

Posted in Teen and Pre-Teens | Tagged with community engagement, empathy, kindness, outreach, programs and service projects

Recently, we surveyed library staff to learn more about what some of our Youth Services librarians have been up to lately. According to Nancy Eames, Youth Services Coordinator, service projects are becoming increasingly popular with the youth in our area.

"We're having more and more branches that are doing creative, hands-on activities using our maker equipment to make things for others. We have a create for the community program that attracts a lot of teens and adults. They've done a variety of things like making little cards using the cricut. They're working together, it's hands-on, it's social." - Nancy Eames

With the help of our caring librarians, area youth have been involved in a lot of service projects. They're engaging children, tweens and teens in our area to create special gifts for animals, children, customers, the homebound, Alzheimer’s patients, veterans, and those that are less fortunate. The librarians and area youth are making an impact in the lives of others. After all, everyone deserves a little kindness. And best of all, customers find these programs to be extremely worthwhile and have commented that it's a rewarding experience.

Hear From Our Librarians ...

What kinds of service projects have you been involved with in the past few years?

Oregon Branch Library

We made kennel blankets for the Humane Society, dog treats for Lucas County Canine, thinking of you cards for Toledo Children’s Hospital, #KindnessMatters bookmarks which we hid throughout the branch, valentines for the homebound who receive deliveries from Mobile Services, crocheted/knitted squares for Warming Up America and most recently, we partnered with Warm Hearts, a project run by a Coy Elementary Student, to create fleece blankets for the poor. We’ve also tried utilizing volunteens as tutors and reading buddies during summer reading.

Service projects - Oregon Branch Library

Check out this great video created by Kate McGowan (Youth Services Librarian, Oregon Branch Library):


Sylvania Branch Library

At the Sylvania Branch Library, we started the Prom Dress Drive in 2017 and collected over 200 dresses. We recruited volunteens to sort, bag, hang, and label dresses for two service project dates. We did this in partnership with the West Toledo Branch, where they held a Once Upon a Formal charity event.

In the Fall of 2018, we collected donations of toiletries from TLCPL staff system-wide to prepare for a teen service project at the Sylvania Branch in partnership with the Cherry Street Mission. Teens attended two program dates for an event called Creative Care Packages, where teens listened to a presentation about the people they would be helping, and we worked together to assemble a total of 200 decorated care packages for the homeless. We used the cricut to create cards with handwritten notes to include in the care packages to give them a personal touch. Cherry Street planned to distribute the care packages at the annual holiday party at the Life Revitalization Center.

Creative care packages - Sylvania Branch Library

Waterville Branch Library

At Waterville, we started MADTeens in the fall of 2018. The groups name was changed to Teens Making a Difference in Winter/Spring. Grades 6-12 meet monthly during the academic year on a Saturday afternoon. The program lasts 2 hours and focuses on a targeted group. Teens earn 2 hours of service credit.

Past service projects at the Waterville Branch have included making fidget blankets for Alzheimer's patients (which were delivered to a local assisted living Alzheimer's unit); creating decorations for a family Halloween program at the Library; putting together care packages filled with books and handmade bookmarks for veterans and soldiers; making kindness rocks (to be randomly left in the community with inspirational messages); creating pinecone bird feeders for local wildlife; and making Valentine’s Day cards for Mobile Services homebound customers.

Service project programs - Waterville Branch Library

West Toledo Branch Library

At the West Toledo Branch, we've been doing service projects for a couple of years now, which we refer to as C4C or Create for the Community. The projects involve the kids making gifts to give away to local agencies in need or even to our Library customers (such as handmade bookmarks, decorated pencils, etc.). Two projects that stand out are the snuffle mats and pet toys that we donate regularly to Lucas County Canine Care and Control, and more recently, the Toledo Area Humane Society. We have also made fun cat toys that we donated to the Paws and Whiskers Cat Shelter. We regularly make encouraging notecards to be delivered to recipients of Mobile Meals of Toledo. And the Crochet Club (which meets at our branch the first Monday of every month) is a small group of ladies that spend time at home crocheting items for neonatal babies and cancer patients at various ProMedica facilities.

West Toledo Branch Library - service projects

What kinds of feedback have you received?

At the Oregon Branch, we have received a lot of positive feedback. Lucas County Canine in particular were extremely pleased to be remembered. From the teen side, those who get involved are excited to have a way to give back to their community. For several, it is hard to get those school required service hours in, so it is nice to be able to do some of those things, without having to travel a great distance and without having a long term commitment. Additionally, they get to do something fun with friends.

At the Sylvania Branch, teens flock to these programs because they want to make a difference and give back to the community.

At the Waterville Branch, the service programs have been well received with some teens participating every month. We have averaged about 7-15 teens per meeting.

At the West Toledo Branch, the kids are just excited to make things and are happy to be a part of the service projects.


Do the kids/tweens/teens at your location find these programs or projects rewarding?

Yes.

At the Oregon Branch, those who get involved are excited to have a way to give back to their community.

At the Sylvania Branch, teens have asked that we offer something like this again. These programs take a lot of time, effort, and planning, but the ROI (return on investment) is huge. It's a wonderful form of community engagement that helps teens see the library as a place where they can make a difference.

At the Waterville Branch, teens are enthusiastic and have provided ideas for future projects.

At the West Toledo Branch, we have a handful of children/tweens/preteens that enjoy participating regularly.


Any other details you would like to share?

Kathryn McGowan (Librarian at the Oregon Branch Library):

Service projects through the Library have a two-fold impact; they connect teens to both the Library and their community. Connected teens feel a sense of pride and see value in those they serve. Connected teens grow to be connected adults who have a vested interest in seeing the community and the Library succeed.

When possible, I like to do our service projects in the teen space. None of our projects are particularly difficult or time consuming. None require previous knowledge, skills or asking the participant to have supplies. Therefore, when possible, I can usually get reluctant teens to offer just a few minutes of their time to do something nice for others. In that sense, these projects have been a gateway to get reluctant teens to interact with the librarian and participate in Library programs.

Librarians across our system strive to encourage teens to expand their horizons, to think beyond the self. Like many Library programs, service-based programs encourage leadership, creative expression, self-awareness, positive communication and social interaction. Additionally, service based programs empower teens with a sense of civic responsibility and engagement.

Amber Bertram (Librarian at the Sylvania Branch Library):

I think most teens in the Sylvania area are pretty fortunate. What I am trying to do is help them see the greater world around then and learn to empathize with those who aren't as lucky. Building soft skills, like teamwork, empathy and collaboration is another key element to programming like this.

When Susan Graalman from the Cherry Street Mission (CSM) spoke to the teens in 2018 and she asked for questions and comments at the end, I found out that many of the teens had no idea how many people in Lucas County are affected by homelessness. One young man asked what CSM would do with the extra care packages after the holiday party. When Susan told him that it was likely that some residents would not get a care package because they would run out, he couldn't believe it.

Adrienne Amborski (Librarian at the Waterville Branch Library):

Teens are very willing to help others in need! The creativity they use in making projects to better the community and world at large have been inspirational to me as an adult. Community Engagement has become a national focus in teen services. Myself and other teen librarians in TLCPL have been fortunate to harness the goodwill and energy of teens in the TLCPL system to help others and foster community wellness.

Tammy Davis (Librarian at the West Toledo Branch Library):

Our programs attract children of all ages (kids/tweens/teens) who enjoy using their creativity to make things.

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