The Joy of Service

Most people live life based on a routine or a list of boxes that must be checked. While there is comfort in routines, they can lead to a life solely surrounding your needs. It is too easy to become hyper focused on what is going on in your life, rather than what is going on with others. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” said Gandhi. Ghandi’s quote can be interpreted many ways, and service can redefine your life or it can simply introduce you to people you would have never previously encountered. That is exactly why service is so unique: its impacts are endless. I have personally encountered life changing experiences with service and it can all be traced back to my family. My aunt Shannon was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth, so I have always been familiar with the condition and how it affects a person. I have always admired my aunt: she’s grown up in a world that is filled with so much hate yet has managed to live a happy life all while maintaining a smile on her face. Because of my aunt, I was inspired to establish a Joy Club at Hutchison. Joy Club completes projects that specifically focus on individuals within the special needs community. Originally I just partnered with the Special Olympics organization and hosted an event, but I soon realized I could do so much more, thanks to the diverseness of service

There will always be a need for service, especially within the special needs community. Each year, the rate of children born with special needs disabilities increases by sixteen percent; thus, the need for service within the community will likely never fade. The idea of sustainability does not pertain to service projects themselves, rather the willingness of volunteers. Each month Joy Club is able to host at least one service project, and we typically tie those to a holiday or celebration. Our club is especially known for delivering holiday cards to the Baddour Center, a living community for adults with special needs, each month.

These cards are unique and individually crafted by Joy Club volunteers for the residents at the Baddour Center, which creates a meaningful experience for each recipient, many of whom do not have living or nearby family members. Providing these cards for the Baddour Center maximizes the impact of service because it targets a group of individuals who otherwise may not receive this type of personalized sentiment. Projects such as these are the fundamental roots of the club and will never have to be redesigned or changed, creating a strong foundation that allows Joy Club to thrive regardless of new leadership or obstacles such as COVID-19. As a founder and passionate believer in service, I always hope to increase our variety of service opportunities, but this foundation of baseline projects will allow the club to sustain. The demand for special needs service work continues to grow, and Joy Club can be passed down to a younger generation of Hutchinson students who can continue to complete impactful work. Additionally, these projects are not limited to my time in Joy Club at Hutchison: they can be carried out regardless of where I go and what I do next. Not only can Joy Club create an impact within the Memphis community, it can impact any community that I–and other volunteers–find myself in.

When I started Joy as a freshman at Hutchison, I had one goal, which was to host a Special Olympics event here at Hutchison. My goal became reality, and in January of 2020, Joy Club hosted around thirty special Olympians in the Hutchison gym. This event led to the growth of Joy Club membership and established a partnership with the Memphis chapter of the Special Olympics. The next month, Joy Club organized a Polar Bear Plunge team, which raised three hundred dollars supporting the Special Olympics organization.

When COVID- 19 hit the next month, our ability to meet as a group was clearly affected, but the next year, regardless of the obstacles we faced, Joy Club was able to make over five hundred cards. As of March 2022, the Hutchison Joy Club has made over six hundred and fifty cards during the 2021-2022 school-year and assembled one hundred and twenty-five Halloween goodie bags. Joy Club has been successful in reaching both the youth and adult special needs community through our projects. Moreover, as of February 2022, Joy Club service projects account for one hundred and twenty-seven student service hours during the 2021-2022 school year. The growth and success of Joy Club since its founding in 2019 is tremendous: Joy Club now has one hundred and forty five members and each meeting attracts over 50 volunteers. Each service project has a direct impact on a member of the special needs community as well as the Hutchison volunteers devoting their time.

Joy Club is certainly not the first group of individuals who got together with the goal of making a change in the special needs community; however, its uniqueness comes from the type of service. To make the biggest impact on our community, we needed to maximize our volunteer numbers. When examining and taking into consideration the unpredictability of a high school girl’s schedule, I came to the conclusion that these service projects needed to be simple yet meaningful. Our most popular service event, which has also had the best volunteer turnout, has been the card and goodie bag making projects. This project is a testament to the idea that a little goes a long way. The projects allow volunteers to use their creative license when designing holiday cards and provide a place for girls to relax while filling bags with candy. Joy Club projects appeal to diverse groups of individuals including, but not limited to, athletes volunteering for the Special Olympics, artists creating cards, and girls who simply have a drive to serve. As a club, we can continue to innovate and present new ideas. It is my hope that Joy Club will continue to reinvent the idea of service each year. By design, Joy Club will never be tied down to a single project; we can continue to explore and take on different types of activities as we see fit.

Growing Joy Club has been one of the most challenging tasks I have ever undertaken, but in moments of struggle, I remind myself of my aunt Shannon. In the true fashion of service, I have to always remember to put others before myself. My struggles with growing the club will never outweigh the hardships my aunt has experienced, and, truthfully, this process has been incredibly rewarding: I have learned the importance of communication, organization, responsibility, and leadership. After my first card-making event, when I delivered the holiday cards to my aunt, her reaction reassured me that the work I was doing was impactful and powerful. It was not until I witnessed the raw, genuinely happy faces of the Special Olympians who were carefree while participating in karaoke at the Joy Club Special Olympics event, though, that I truly deemed Joy Club a success. Recently, my aunt was a guest speaker at a Joy Club meeting, and she shared with the volunteers the importance, impact, and joy our service projects have had on her and others. Returning to Ghandi’s quote, I can attest to the fact that I have truly lost myself through the service of others. Joy Club has allowed me to grow into the best version of myself while seeking to help others through service and the impact that has had on me is truly immeasurable.