United Way’s Summer of Service initiative looking for teen volunteers

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, May 24, 2023

United Way of Southwest Louisiana’s sixth annual Summer of Service program is now open for registration.

Throughout the month of June, local teens aged 13 to 18 will have the opportunity to volunteer in their community and gain vital and valuable experiences while school is out of session.

According to Denise Durel, president and CEO of United Way of SWLA, the projects this year focus on developing compassion for the community in participating children while simultaneously addressing unmet needs in the area.

Email newsletter signup

“These service projects are an essential way for teens to make an association between helping someone else and their joy and fulfillment,” she said. “A few hours assisting others has long-term implications for our teens and the community.”

She said the volunteer hours also look great on a resume.

This is the sixth year of Summer of Service. For Ashley Norman, the benefits that the program offers teens speak for themselves. “Summer of Service helps teens learn new things and meet new people all over the community, but it also helps them understand and appreciate the diversity in Southwest Louisiana,” she said. Additionally, participants build strong leadership and collaborative skills.

The projects focus on United Way of SWLA’s four impact areas: education, health, economic mobility and basic needs. These impact areas are the “building blocks for a more successful life,” according to data collected by United Way.

Through Summer of Service, overlooked needs of the community are addressed while teens are simultaneously benefiting through volunteerism. “Often, community-based projects need to be done but get pushed aside due to time constraints, funding issues and priority,” said Norman. “Summer of Service looks to fill these needs by coordinating youth and providing them with the supplies and training needed to complete some basic projects.

“By participating in the program, Southwest Louisiana youth become engaged in a healthy and educational way where they also complete unfulfilled projects that result in a better quality of life for community members.”

On an annual basis, 20-30 teens participate in Summer of Service, with an average of seven to 12 kids per project.

This number continues to rise, Norman said, as United Way of SWLA has received an increasing amount of public support since the inception of Summer of Service.

She attributes this to their commitment to connecting with community members and organizations to enact change. Through these partnerships, they are able to identify the greatest areas of need in Southwest Louisiana.

“Throughout the year, United Way of SWLA and partner agencies work to identify current and arising community needs and barriers for citizens for Southwest Louisiana,” she said. “Our work within the local communities is based solely on what needs to be done and what social issues might arise.”

Summer of Service is free and open to all Southwest Louisiana youth aged 13 to 18. Projects are taking place in both Calcasieu and Allen parishes.

The Calcasieu Parish Summer of Service projects are:

June 1 at 9 a.m. – Painting at M. J. Kaufman Elementary

June 6 at 8:30 a.m. – Pressure Washing at Moss Bluff Senior Center

June 7 at 9 a.m. – Pressure Washing at Oberlin Elementary School

June 12 at 11:30 a.m. – Tech Day at Moss Bluff Senior Center

June 14 at 9 a.m. – Painting Class Rooms at Oberlin Middle School

June 20 at 9 a.m. – Painting Class Rooms at Oakdale Middle School

June 26 at 9 a.m. – Painting and Cleaning Classrooms at Kinder High School

June 28 at 11 a.m. – Birthday Celebration at Moss Bluff Senior Center

All volunteers are provided a T-shirt, tools and personal protective equipment to be used during the projects.

For teens to volunteer, a partner or guardian must fill out the online form, have transportation to and from projects and agree to program rules. To register, visit unitedwayswla.org/summer-of-service.