By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Volunteerism is alive and well at Pinkerton Academy.
Students filed through the high school’s annual volunteer fair last week, looking for opportunities to do community service and help others.
This was the 10th year for the fair. Representatives from area nonprofit agencies came to the Shepard Auditorium to meet prospective student volunteers and offer information about what they do. Students came by during their free periods to learn how they can get involved as volunteers.
Organizations including the Sonshine Soup Kitchen, Community Caregivers of Greater Derry, Derry Heritage Commission, Girl Scouts, Derry Public Library, Parkland Medical Center, and the Salvation Army joined with other groups interested in signing up student help.
It is a way to bring nonprofit organizations to the school to help students find things they might be interested in doing as a volunteer. Students are very interested, according to Pinkerton teacher Roger Konstant.
“I believe there is a rise in volunteering because of the economics issues our country faces,” he said. “Many students are finding it difficult to get a job. They want to ‘work,’ so volunteering is a way to do something productive.”
Signing on to volunteer can not only teach students the importance of helping others, but it can mean community service experience on their resumes.
“I’m looking for some community service opportunities,” Pinkerton junior Sophia Shay said as she considered signing up to help with Community Caregivers of Greater Derry.
That nonprofit group relies heavily on its volunteer base, with people helping provide transportation and other services to help the disabled or elderly remain independent in their homes.
Junior Sam Boyle was looking for a perfect volunteer fit.
“I just want to help people in the community,” he said, “and do what I can.”’
Debbie Aboud represented Girls Scouts of America. She said older students can help the younger Scouts learn and serve as role models.
“It’s important for the younger girls to see the older girls in leadership roles,” she said. “They can be a role model.”
Denyce Ellis, a member of Derry’s Heritage Commission, came to the fair hoping to sign up some volunteers to help with specific museum work. Needs include volunteering at the museum when visitors stop by, or helping archive photos and information.
By the end of the fair, her signup list was long.
“They can learn all about the museum,” she said.
Having volunteers in place can be a godsend to local organizations.
“We would love to have kids volunteer,” Ellis said. “Some don’t even know we have a museum.”
T.J. Cullinane stood nearby and hoped to sign up students to help with the historic Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry. The Friends of Forest Hill Cemetery always need additional support and helping hands to continue the work at the cemetery, including cleaning gravestones.
He planned to lead a group of volunteers on Saturday and teach them the tricks of proper stone cleaning and upkeep.
Konstant said students get a sense of pride and accomplishment when they volunteer.
“They feel good about what they do and they benefit as well because it can help to build a resume and a network for their future,” he said. “By volunteering on a regular basis, a sense of belonging to a larger group and self worth is gained; responsibility and commitment are learned and fostered through these opportunities.”