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Norwalk 7th-graders 'give back'

Cary Ashby • May 26, 2019 at 10:00 PM

For seventh-grader Annastasia Mainzer, the most fun she had while touring the Enrichment Centers for Huron County in Norwalk was riding the lift on one of the vans.

The Norwalk Middle School students did more than see the vehicles in the fleet; they also helped clean out one of the rooms in the building.

“We picked up boxes and put (them) in another room,” Kate Johnson said.

The experience was one of many offered during the first Youth Community Service Day. Students chose from the following supervised assignments last Friday afternoon: Making fleece tie-blankets for those in need, shoebox assembly, canned food drive and cleaning up at the Fisher-Titus Medical Center campus, Fisher-Titus Pediatric Therapy, Carriage House, Enrichment Centers for Huron County (formerly Senior Enrichment Services), Baines Park, Bicentennial Jaycees Park, first responders’ memorial on Shady Lane Drive, Stoutenburg Park, VFW and the middle school.

Mainzer shared why she chose the Enrichment Center.

“I wanted to go with someone I actually knew, so I signed up here. I thought it was really fun,” she said. “You always get to see parks and everything, but you never really get to see inside of here, so I thought it sounded fun.”

The Youth Community Service Day was the brain child of social studies teacher Danny Helton. He said the event — this time just for seventh-graders — coincides with the curriculum, which has a citizenship component.

“He came up with the idea for a service day, where we could get the kids out in the community and kinda give back. One of the big ideas with this is to give the kids opportunities of things that they can do. It’s not always about what they can get, but what they can give — and show them an appreciation for actually doing something for somebody and not expecting anything in return,” said science teacher Rod Thimke, who supervised the students at the Enrichment Center.

“It’s kind of our pilot program to see how it goes,” he added. “If it goes well, then Mr. (Gary) Swartz has suggested that maybe we do it as a building-wide program.

“At Norwalk Middle School we believe that community service plays an essential role in the education of our children. We believe by being active members of our community, the students will shift (their) focus from an inward focus on themselves to an outward focus on others. Community service will help the students learn beyond the classroom about being active members of the community, having an impact on society at large and improving the quality of life of others,” staff members said in a May 25 letter to parents and guardians.

Helton shared some feedback he had, including teachers and staff members who want to see the service day expand to both the seventh and eighth grades.

“There was definitely a level of excitement when we got back,” he said. “We were selecting spots that were close to the middle school; we wanted to walk. … It’s been on the drawing board for a while. It was just a matter of doing it.”

After cleaning up the room at the Enrichment Center, the students had a tour of the Shady Lane facility.

“We carried a lot of things. Some of it was a printer, a box full of Christmas letters and stuff like that,” Mainzer said.

Transportation supervisor Carlos Vasquez showed the students the vehicles in the fleet. One of the Meals on Wheels trucks has a two-part storage unit with areas for cold and warm food.

“Yes, it was very hot in one compartment and cool in the other compartment,” seventh-grader George Mayse said. “The most interesting part was to hear about the Meals on Wheels and how they deliver to people who cannot get out of their houses.” 

Johnson said she thinks it’s “really kind” to deliver food to shut-in residents.

Vasquez oversaw the students riding the lift used for elderly riders and those in wheelchairs to get into one of the vans. They held on to a bar as the platform rose.

“The truck was really cool and there was this lift that you put wheelchairs in. A bunch of my friends got to go in it,” said Mayse, who admitted the experience was “kinda scary.”

“I felt like I was going to fall off.”

Tanner Harp most enjoyed hearing how the drivers deliver food. The student said he also liked riding on the lift because it helped him know what that experience is like for elderly or handicapped clients who use the bus. 

Roxanne Sandles, executive director of the Enrichment Centers for Huron County, said the day’s experience “might be opening a door for a career path,” such as social service work.

“I’m very grateful that they called and wanted to offer their services. Again, I’d love to have the kids come out and see what we do and interact with the seniors when they’re here. Anytime they want to come out, we’d be glad to have them,” she said.

“It gives them an opportunity that maybe they haven’t had. Maybe they don’t have grandparents or older folks in their families and this gives them an opportunity to interact that older generation and to learn from them.”

In general, Thimke said the service day is an opportunity to show residents “how many good kids we have in this community.”  

“Sometimes the ones (who) cause the trouble outshine the good ones and I think this puts it in a good light. … We’ve got some great kids in this community and we need to see that and recognize that,” the teacher added.

“I think it’s an important thing for the kids to see because again, we got to see things here today that I wasn’t even aware of,” Thimke said, referring to the Enrichment Center. “It opens up their eyes and I know some of the kids were talking to Carlos about what they could do afterward. So I think it gives them an idea of, ‘Hey, maybe I can do something more than just sit around.’

“I thought it was fun to see the kids outside of the classroom and see them pitch in and work together to accomplish a common goal. It was impressive to see how they kinda took charge,” Thimke said. “They sat down, we figured a plan out, they organized it and they got it done.”

Looking back on the day, Helton said “it went really well.”

“We definitely will do it again next year.”

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