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March 16, 2011 / HandsOnCorps

A Day in the Life Of Claire

It was an accident and I know the kid didn’t mean to do it, but having the fire alarm go off before the students even got started was not how I wanted the project to begin.  A few weeks ago I was stepping in to lead a project at an apartment building for low-income seniors, run by the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Department on Aging.  We had a youth group of about 15 middle school volunteers come in to cook breakfast for the seniors and then play bingo with them.  Traditionally, we like to have our leaders provide some sort of welcome or introduction before the project gets started, and give a little background about the community the group will be serving.  We’ve found that it provides a more intentional purpose and connection for the volunteers, making the project more meaningful.  After I introduced the basics of the project to the kids and told them a little bit about the seniors they would be working with, I had them circle up and introduce themselves.  As they went around the circle saying their names, how they perceived most seniors to be (the actuality of which we would address at the end of the project), and their favorite thing to do in the summer, one kid leaned a little too closely on the back door and set off the fire alarm.

We were only delayed about half an hour, but keeping a group of middle schoolers entertained and on task for even that amount of time is no small feat.  The alarm was loud enough that we weren’t able to stay and continue getting things ready in the kitchen, so by the time we were back in, we were a little behind schedule.  We were able to make do though, and once the kids had tasks to work on, things went along quite smoothly.

After the seniors came in the kids started serving them breakfast.  It took a little bit of encouragement and prodding to get some of the kids who weren’t serving food to sit and talk amongst the seniors, but once bingo started that was no longer an issue.  I had no idea that a group of people could be so particular about how they play a game of bingo!  The seniors even had a prize system all worked out where no one could win more than once – if they did, they had to give their prize to someone else.  The highlight of the day had to be when one of the seniors asked me, “Claire, can we give our prize to Michelle (one of the students)?  She’s been so helpful!”  Of course I had to say yes.

Claire Dooms
Leader Services
Chicago Cares, Inc.

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