Things You Need To Know About Community Services Today.
The Miracle of Habitat for Humanity
There may be no more recognizable organization name that comes to mind when we think of community service than Habitat for Humanity. This is an organization that does not view world poverty or reaching out to the disadvantaged as just subjects of speeches. Habitat for Humanity literally puts their backs into the mission of helping the disadvantaged, one home at a time.
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There is no doubt that the high profile “celebrities” that have worked in Habitat for Humanity have done a lot to raise the awareness of the community services this fine organization does in communities around the nation and around the world. President Jimmy Carter’s tireless work with Habitat for Humanity has left us with even more powerful images of his leadership than perhaps he left us when he completed his term as President.
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But those images are never of an ex-president enjoying the accolades of admirers at an expensive Washington or Hollywood dinner to raise money for a cause. No, the images of President Carter working with Habitat for Humanity are the images that anyone who gets involved with this cause will remember. They will recall images of dozens and dozens of helpful citizens, of all ages, races, creeds and backgrounds, working together with their sleeves rolled up to build a house for a neighbor, even if that neighbor is from halfway around the world.
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Considering that the mission of Habitat for Humanity is driven by the calling to build homes for people in need, one house at a time, the figures of their success are truly staggering. As of their 2005 figures, Habitat for Humanity had built over 200,000 homes worldwide and those homes have given safe, clean, affordable shelter to over one million needy people. No wonder, as each new owner of a Habitat for Humanity home looks at their beautiful new home, they universally call the work of Habitat for Humanity “a miracle.”
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The organizational system that Habitat for Humanity uses is a model for helping the less fortunate but avoiding the pitfalls that often occur when a government agency gives a handout. The future owners of a Habitat home enter into an agreement to work shoulder to shoulder with the volunteers who are building their home investing “sweat equity” into that home. This investment builds pride and a sense of ownership. But along with those benefits, it takes those same new homeowners and adds them to the army of workers who will turn around and go out and help build another home for someone just like themselves who could use a helping hand to afford a home where their family can live.
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It is small wonder that Habitat for Humanity was awarded the Presidential Metal of Freedom in 1996, the highest civilian honor the government can give. When awarding this metal, President Clinton said that Habitat for Humanity was “…the most successful continuous community service project in the history of the United States.”. A truly phenomenal and “miraculous” movement such as Habitat for Humanity does not go unnoticed as we witnessed when President Carter, a tireless worker for Habitat for Humanity, was given the Nobel Peace Prize for his continuous work on behalf of the disadvantaged in our society and around the world.
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There is something about community service that causes a sense of coming together that really is not possible in any other setting. When a community comes out either in a time of crisis or when a big community project is in the works, you see a side of people that will not surface in their day to day world. This may be why community service projects that mobilize the population to get out and help others are so popular.
Community service gives people a chance to do something for someone else. It also gives parents the chance to get their kids involved in something wholesome, fun, and to learn the value of doing a project for a selfless motive. And it gives everyone a chance to get to know others in the community that we might never meet any other way.
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Thousands of citizens have flocked to work with others in Habitat for Humanity to build homes for their neighbors. The movement is ecumenical Christian, independent of government funding, non-profit and totally driven by an army of volunteers. And yet is has truly been an example of how communities can come together to help others for the sheer joy of community service.
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United Way functions are great for this because they pull volunteers from businesses all over your community. So you might be working shoulder to shoulder painting a school room with the president of the biggest bank in town or a minister of a church you never otherwise would have gotten to know. The hours working together builds bonds and friendships that are in every possible way healthy for everyone.
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There are plenty of historical precedents for how the bonding that occurs in times of community service pulls a community and even the nation together. During World War II, the nation was shocked into action by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All around the country, communities mobilized in dozens of ways to conserve on precious resources needed for the war effort, to equip, train and take care of the expanding military and sending their sons off to fight this threat to the nation.
To this day there is no time in our history remembered with such fondness as those days after Pearle Harbor when the nation functioned as one person to do all they could to win this battle that was before us. The songs of that era and the movies are cherished even by generations that have come later because they are reminders of a time when the people came together for what was perhaps the greatest community service project of all time, to defeat the enemy overseas by mobilizing here at home.
Similar unity has happened from time to time since then and always, it seems, in response to a crisis. When President Kennedy was shot, when the towers fell on 911 or when the hurricane hit in New Orleans, the unity of purpose among all Americans was evident. If ever there was a time when we showed the world that we were one people with one heart, those were the times.
If we can find ways to create a similar spirit, not as a result of crisis but built around a community need, even at just the local level, we can see a similar unity between peoples that can cause some real social bonding. In many communities there are divisions between neighborhoods based on racial or economic divisions. A strong commitment to community service can cause people to look outward and away from their resentments and prejudices and work shoulder to shoulder with a fellow citizen that they may have treated with hostility in any other setting.
There are many good reasons to sponsor community service at the local level including the good it does for the recipients and the good feelings the volunteers get when they get out and help another person. But this side benefit that happens when a community service project brings people together and makes new friends out of old enemies may be one of the greatest benefits of community service of them all.