Year after year, – otherwise known as Help to Others – continues to improve the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people in the community.
Started in 1991 by Lakewood’s Division of Youth to help develop students’ character, habits and world view, the organization attracts sixth to ninth graders whose small contributions continually make a big difference in the city, assistant coordinator Emmie Hutchison said.
During the school year, H2O works in conjunction with the staff and students at and to organize fundraisers, craft public service announcements and write letters and make out cards to soldiers, veterans and others who benefit from their acts of kindness.
During the summer, the non-profit dives into its busy season. The summer camp is split into four, two-week sessions with 50 kids per group who are dispersed into the community to volunteer at various service sites, she said.
The sites include: the Cleveland Food Bank, the Ronald McDonald House, the ASIA (Asian Services in Action) Center, daycares, the homes of senior citizens and .
The list goes on.
“By going to the service sites, I think they learn how far compassion, empathy and generosity go," Hutchison said. “I think a lot of kids think that you have to be able to do something monumental or have some well-developed skill to make a difference in people’s lives.
“And while you can bring your skills and talents to whatever you do, while volunteering you can also just bring that gift of yourself. I truly believe that a lot of kids absolutely get that once they start.”
It appears that not only does the program engender that kind of connection through volunteering, but it also makes service work popular. Hutchison said they might have to limit the summer camp to seventh through ninth grade next year because the waiting list is so long.
“I really enjoy it,” summer camp student Morgan Fox said. “It gives you a chance to go out and volunteer and help people, and I find that to be really rewarding. My favorite program is the senior gardening because it’s nice to lend a hand and help someone who can’t do as much as they used to, to help take care of their home.”