There is hardly a group, club, organization, or team in the country today who doesn’t try to better themselves, either individually or as a group, by performing some kind of community service project. Some organizations such as the Girl and Boy Scouts, the National Honor Society and many fraternal organizations, center themselves around solely around helping the community in which they live. But beyond the standard food and clothing drives, blood drives, basically any “drive” one can think of, it is not always easy to come up with projects that are inventive enough to keep members interested and still practical enough to do “real” good in the community. As a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, I have definitely seen my fair share of philanthropic activity; in honor of our sorority’s Centennial anniversary (2001), my collegiate chapter was one of three out of 75 chapters to take on the task of 100 philanthropics for 100 years. We were also the only chapter to complete all 100. I would like to share a few of our projects that elicited the most involvement from our members.
One of our national philanthropics is the S. June Smith Center in Lancaster, PA. The Center is a school which helps developmentally challenged children prepare for “regular” school. It is also a non-profit organization and therefore has to occasionally look to groups such as Alpha Sigma Alpha for aid. So we gathered kid-friendly magazines, glue, markers, stamps, stickers and anything else we could find and set about making books to help the children learn letters and numbers. Begin with 36 squares of brightly colored heavy bond construction paper. The squares can be any size, but remember these will be handled by children approximately aged between three and seven or eight so they shouldn’t probably be much larger than 6×6, or smaller than 4×4.
Draw large bold letters, or use stickers, both capital and lowercase, on one side of each square. The letters themselves should take up as much of the square as possible, you will use the facing page to demonstrate the letter’s sound. What this means, in terms of organization, is that one square should have a B and a b on one side and pictures of apples, airplanes, and arrows. The A page will have the front cover of the book on the opposite side and the back cover will be behind the picture of the zebra. Make sure that all of your pictures are kid-friendly, that is to say objects that small children will easily recognize. While you may automatically think of an aardvark, a small child may not recognize it as such, unless you select a picture of the DePatie-Freleng cartoon character, and then the chances are slim. Do the same with the other ten squares, only with these you will be demonstrating numbers. To avoid confusion with the pictures and purpose of the alphabet book, consider using shapes; one circle, two squares, three triangles, and so forth.
When you have completed all of the pages, laminate them (to protect them from potentially sticky little fingers so that they can be used more than just a few times), then put them together. If you have access to a spiral binding machine, this will provide a more finished look to your books but if not, a paper hole punch and some leather cord will work fine. Punch two or three (depending on the size of the book) holes in each page, taking care that all of the holes line up then lace them together with a length of leather cord. Lace the cord through the top hole, criss-cross it, lace it back through the same hole, criss-cross again and do the same through the bottom hole. When you have it laced through the bottom hole twice, tie it once, dot with a small amount of hot glue or super glue and complete a knot, trimming any excess so that the tails are no longer than one inch.
The S. June Smith Center is not the only school of its kind in the country and schools aren’t the only places these books can be useful. Churches, homeless and battered women’s shelters, hospital pediatric wards, really any place where children go to either learn or to spend extended periods of time are great homes for your books.
Puzzles can find many of the same homes as the alphabet and number books; schools, churches, shelters, and hospitals, and are just as fun and almost easier to make. Start with a page out of a simple coloring book. Pictures with small intricate details might be acceptable if your audience consists of older children, aged 8 or more, but for small children simple pictures are best. Color your picture first. Make sure that all parts of the picture are colored, including the background, and that the colors you choose are simple (primary colors and “jewel” tones), bright, vibrant, and offer a great deal of contrast (one thing that children learn from using both of these projects that is not in the original intention of the project is color recognition so color choice is very important). Using a dry adhesive such as double sided tape or a spray adhesive, adhere the colored picture to a piece of lightweight cardboard or poster board. Cutting the backing slightly larger than the picture will create a border around it and help to identify the edges. Make a color copy of the picture to use as a reference and then cut it into puzzle pieces, keeping in mind that this puzzle is for small children, ten to fifteen pieces is a good amount. Run all the pieces through a laminating machine to protect them then cut them out again. Cut the plastic coating as close to the pieces as possible without compromising the seal.
Lucky Ladybugs for Lupus
One of the mascots of Alpha Sigma Alpha is the ladybug, so it seemed only fitting when we heard of the Lucky Ladybugs for Lupus campaign that we get involved. Traditionally, the Lucky Ladybugs are painted rocks sold for a small price ($1) and the money is donated to the Lupus Foundation. The only reason we could find for the use of painted rocks was that most of the people selling the ladybugs were 11- and 12-year-old children, so we took a step away from the rocks and made magnets instead.
In most craft and hobby stores you will find unfinished wooden ladybug shapes which can be painted and adhered to magnets with a drop of hot glue. If you can find ladybugs which are already painted, you will have eliminated a step from your project. From this step we used a computer to print hundreds of little flags that read “Lucky Ladybugs for Lupus,” or “This ladybug helped someone with Lupus,” leaving an inch of the “flag” to use to attach it to the ladybug. Using the hot glue gun adhere the flag to the back/bottom of the wooden piece and cover it with the magnet. Even if you select self-adhesive magnets, using the hot glue gun will add a little more security.
Another idea for marketing the ladybugs is to print the same messages on heavy bond paper or cardstock and cut into inch and a half strips. Decorate the strips with ladybug stickers or rubber stamps. Use a hole punch to make a small hole in the top, lace a piece of red ribbon or leather through it, tying or gluing it to secure it in place, and call the whole thing a bookmark. Determine a price for your ladybugs ($1 is typically a good price for items sold toward a worthy cause) and when you have sold all of them, which you will, write a check to the Lupus Foundation.
World Lupus Day is May 10, so if your organization is able, selling these cute little critters on or before this day, to honor it, is a great idea. But even if you can’t sell them on May 10, any day will do and the donations will be greatly appreciated.
Each year, on October 30, we would get together and carve upwards of thirty Jack-o-Lanterns which we would then deliver to the pediatrics wings of the two local hospitals. Projects like this one can be done for every holiday of the year and the end results don’t always have to go to hospitals. Shelters are terrific places to take holiday crafts as these are often sad places full of people with no where to go for the holidays (homeless shelters) or people who have left their holidays behind (domestic violence shelters). Carve out Jack-o-Lanterns for Halloween, make snowflakes out of tissue paper or vellum and mini Christmas trees out of pinecones for Christmas. If your group is really creative, or fairly large in number, homemade cards can be fun for the children; you may even consider talking with hospital or shelter administration and setting up a time to help the children make their own cards to give to their families.
These are only a few of the creative and fun community service projects that my collegiate sorority used to complete our goal of 100 philanthropics for 100 years. We have used them since then, donating the books and puzzles to different organizations each time, and every time we have a lot of fun producing the projects and I’m sure your group will too.