Contributed by Mayumi Okubo, Shinnyo-en Youth Association Member
The Family Service Event was held in Chicago for the fifth year this year on April 24, 2016. The Shinnyo-en Temple was full with more than 40 volunteers, all eager to help organizations in the community. Many volunteers have participated since the first year it was held in 2012. Through this, a spirit of friendship has fostered through doing good together, and participants look forward to this event each year.
Volunteers supported six different organizations on this day which included: The Buddy Foundation, the Humanitarian Services Project, WINGS, the DuPage Senior Citizens Council, Heart of a Marine, and the Kenneth Young Center. For The Buddy Foundation, volunteers assembled ‚”Take Home Kits” for newly adopted dogs. These kits were comprised of pull toys made by the volunteers, dog treats and chew bones. Volunteers made “Birthday Parties in Bags” for the Humanitarian Service Project to give to seniors and families in poverty, and for the WINGS Foundation to give to mothers with children who would otherwise not receive birthday gifts. Volunteers hand-decorated birthday bags and also wrote birthday cards to extend their wishes to each recipient. The bags included cake mix, frosting, candles, cutlery and plates. The DuPage Senior Citizens Council received decorated clay pots with spring flowers to bring a bit of sunshine to seniors, while The Heart of a Marine received personal first-aid kits to distribute to homeless veterans. Volunteers also made no-sew blankets for those with mental health issues and seniors for the Kenneth Young Center. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, children, adults, seniors and even animals were supported through this day of service.
Ninety minutes soon passed, and the time for assembly and decorating came to a close. Following, volunteers were invited to share their reflections – what they enjoyed, found challenging, and how they would take action going forward. Some people enjoyed the camaraderie and coming together towards a shared goal of helping others. Others felt a sense of gratitude for the open and inviting environment and being surrounded by everyone’s giving spirit. A first-time participant and Shinnyo-en youth member, Eric Washington, shared that he enjoyed crafting, knowing that the good would go on to serve a greater purpose and working alongside others who took this similar satisfaction.
As the event came to a close, Elk Grove High School teacher Joe Bush shared about the service learning course that he currently teaches and described how his students have been contributing to the community through his course. These students were also able to take what they have learned in the classroom and implemented it during this Family Service Event. Following the Family Service event, they could continue applying what they experienced out into society and the ripples of service and compassion will continue to grow.
Through the Family Service event, different communities, organizations and people of all ages were able to come together to share in the act of service. Each person’s experience is unique, but it was surely a rewarding experience for volunteers and organizations alike.