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Mantua – In a time when many around the community and around the country are focused on what others can do for them, eighth graders at Crestwood Middle School learned a valuable lesson in service from an unlikely source. While it’s not unusual for students to take field trips throughout the school year, CMS eighth graders went on a very special trip last week. Instead of the usual cultural or learning experience typically expected, this year, the day was devoted to serving others. Because in the rush to prepare students for the latest versions of Federal and State-mandated testing, some crucial lessons can often be missed. Like Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.”

This winter day of service began as a conversation that CMS’s Kim Marfy, Jen Westbrook, and Lynn Morrisson had while volunteering during the summer at the Akron-Canton Foodbank. They marveled, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this with the kids?!” Low and behold, by the time school resumed in the fall, Mrs. Marfy and Ms. Westbrook had worked out a plan for a new kind of field trip. Eight volunteer sites were established to give students their choice in how to make their community better. And last Monday morning, students, staff, and parent volunteers lined up with their packed lunches, eager to board school buses for a day of service.

Students chose ways to serve — from performing holiday music, organizing, making beds, or working in the great outdoors — there truly was something for everyone. A large group headed to the Akron Canton Foodbank in the mission to provide food and other essential items to 500 food pantries, hot meal sites, shelters and other hunger-relief programs in eight Northeast Ohio counties. The group from CMS spent their time sorting, measuring, and checking expiration dates on food items that had been collected for distribution.

Another group of hard-working volunteers headed to the Haven of Rest in Akron, an organization that has provided emergency and residential care since 1943. The Haven of Rest provides food, emergency shelter, housing, resident rehabilitation programs, educational classes, career development assistance, an after-care program, counseling, advocacy, clothing, and limited dental/medical care for over 500 men, women, and children daily. The CMS group assisted this worthy organization by making beds and folding laundered bedding to help prepare for that evening’s residents.

The next work site was nearby, at Hattie Larlham, where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are provided medical, residential, recreational and work training services. CMS students had the opportunity to help clients with crafts, reading, and other activities. In addition, some students helped by cleaning the vans that are used to transport some of the 1,800 clients. Similarly, another group headed to Akron to United Disability Services, an organization that serves individuals of all ages with all types of disabilities. CMS students focused their efforts on the organization’s toy resource center, where they cleaned toys and re-organized shelves in that high-traffic area.

Still another group, filled with student musicians and singers, used their gifts to brighten the holidays for residents of a local nursing home and the Portage Play and Learn preschool. Another group headed to the Downtown Akron Partnership to help that organization prepare for its largest community event — First Night Akron. This annual New Year’s Eve celebration hosts hundreds of attendees each year simultaneously at sites across the downtown area. CMS volunteers organized mask-making supplies and created sample masks, assembled temporary lighting, and assembled tickets and promotional materials for the organization’s celebration. The final group headed to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to help park staff organize, clean and transport winter sporting gear from storage to rental areas located throughout the park.

And as these young adults continue to high school and beyond, they take with them the lesson they learned that day, that even small acts can transform the world.
Interested in a chance to win free tickets to ring in the New Year at First Night Akron on December 31st? Be sure to check out The Weekly Villager on Facebook to find out how!