Stay tune and become engaged

My work as the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County often takes me before youth groups and civic organizations all across our county.

For instance, I’ve spoken to students at Crothersville High School about my work here at the foundation and about philanthropy. I offer a similar discussion each spring and fall with seventh- and eighth-graders in the Leadership Jackson County youth leadership program, YoJack. The group includes students from across the county.

I’ve spoken with the men and women of Seymour Kiwanis Club and Noon Lions and the Brownstown Exchange Club, for instance.

Although I’ve been with the foundation for just more than four years now, I’ve been involved in community activities and trying to make a difference for far longer. I imagine many of you, too, are engaged in community work. Some may not even realize it.

A question I often ask of students is how many of them attend church and take on projects through their youth group. Who raises money for FFA? Who collects toys for those in need at Christmas? Who raises money for the sports programs and band trips or some other school activity? They’re all involved in community projects — and engaged in philanthropy — and that’s a great thing.

Mentors such as their parents, grandparents and teachers are likely modeling what it takes to be an active citizen in their daily lives, so much so that, again, the students — and maybe even you may not realize it.

A community project can be defined in many ways and take many forms. Expanding the Farmers Market in Seymour is one example. Creating the Heritage Park in Brownstown is another. Building — and maintaining — the Katie Collman playground at Crothersville Elementary School is yet another. Collecting toys for the Brownstown Cheer program at Christmas or the Sertoma Club Christmas Miracle program are two more.

Look around your community, both in your local neighborhood and all around Jackson County, and you can find many projects and issues to become a part of as an active citizen. Rotary, Psi Otes and the Jackson County Canine Shelter come to mind. So does serving on the boards of organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour, Girls Inc. of Jackson County and Child Care Network of Jackson County. Area schools and the Jackson County Learning Center also often need volunteers.

Jackson County United Way partners with 20 certified member agencies — and many other community builders — that need donations and volunteers. You’ve likely been touched by some — Girls Inc. and its outreach to area schools, Boys & Girls Club, the senior citizens centers around the county, Mental Health America and others. United Way’s annual campaign will kick off soon. Stay tuned and become engaged.

There are many good reasons to become a part of a community project or tackling an issue, regardless of how young or old. Age really doesn’t matter. Engagement does.

For one, it just feels good to help others. I think that’s especially true if your work involves the principle of paying it forward. You can also gain valuable skills such as teamwork and being able to take directions — and offer directions.

If you’re curious about finding a project you could work with, ask people you know who volunteer. Contact the Jackson County United Way or directly contact one of its member agencies. Ask your pastor. Or take on a project yourself. Invite others to join you.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, 107 Community Drive, Seymour, IN 47274. For information about donating to the foundation, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to [email protected]. Send comments to [email protected]