Reflections of a Service Learning Teen’s Efforts to Help get Beanie Babies to Kids in Need via Our Troops & Operation Troop Support

I always open the summary descriptions written by my service learning teens with a bit of trepidation. Did they get the point? Did they experience what it truly means to help people help those in need? To put it simply, did they feel their time was well spent? After reading Robbie Brengle’s reflection and the email he sent to me with the document and some pics, I think the questions can all be answered with a resounding, “Yes!”

So, mentoring a young person, helping people get their Beanie Babies out from under while avoiding the trash, helping Operation Troop Support show our support to our military and, in turn helping to ease the sadness and stress of a child in a war torn country, and in general setting an example of empowered collective decluttering… That’s at least 7 ways this DeClutter For Good can be considered Time Well Spent!

To be sure, the drive “ended” decidedly late in terms of the calendar. Still, I feel that Robbie and Jeffrey’s experience with the DeClutter For Good beanie baby drive was a positive one.  In addition to helping double the number of beanie babies that would have been collected by the more typical DeClutter For Good drive that involves one drop-off weekend in a given month, I believe the two teens, now rising seniors, learned quite a bit about not only the physical logistics of materials-based collections, but also about the people side of the equation.

DeClutter Beanie Babies for Good Drive on the Front Page

After writing a letter to the editor, the teens scored the front page of the local weekly~above the fold, might I add!

The teens went to New England Biolabs to pick up a large donation of  the little stuffed creatures and saw how traditional businesses can embrace the concept of corporate social responsibility by doing their share to support the community and the environment.

And, lastly, they learned that it isn’t over until it’s over, that it doesn’t matter whether the papers have been turned in, the front page photo taped proudly to the fridge, the accolades have been made and received, the job isn’t done until the donated items have been delivered to the service organization that will get them into the hands of those in need.  I’m so pleased to report that today was that day and there’s a whole bunch of photos of Robbie delivering the Beanie Babies to Operation Troop Support in Danvers, MA, to prove it!

robbie beanie babies

Go to Operation Troop Support’s Facebook page (here’s a link to the Beanie Baby Collection album)  to see more pics (and, while you are there, “like” their page and follow their good work to support our troops!).

Of course, as Robbie indicates in his summary, I could go on and on, just did and often do!  Today, I’ll practice the tiniest bit of self control and refrain from sharing  any more of my thoughts on the subject and, instead, I’ll let Robbie’s perspective speak for itself:

To fulfill the twenty five hours of community service required of Juniors at Ipswich High School, I tutored a 5th grade student in math and organized a Beanie Baby drive with a friend, with the purpose of collecting people’s unwanted Beanie Babies, and shipping them to American soldiers stationed overseas to give to children as gifts and tokens of peace. Both projects left me feeling a sense of accomplishment, and I actually had some fun during the process. I also enjoyed doing two completely different projects because it gave me a chance to test my abilities in different fields and it was refreshing to mix up what I was involved with during the past six months. While it was stressful and difficult at times, my experience in doing community service was a positive one.

After about a month, I realized that tutoring alone was not going to get me to twenty five hours of community service, so I started looking for another project to do before the proposal deadline in January. Luckily, I heard through the grapevine that Nancy Gallant had something available, so Jeff Carpenter and I went in to her office on Route 1 to meet with her and some other kids about potential community service projects to do. Nancy Gallant is incredibly passionate about what she does, which shouldn’t come as surprise because she spends a lot of her time helping others for literally no money. If you were to ask Nancy about what she does at Time Well Spent, the organization that she created and runs her donation drives out of, she could probably go on for an hour about each of the projects she has organized in the past couple of months.

Nancy was the one who gave Jeff and I the idea of a Beanie Baby Drive, because she did some research and found out that other organizations have been collecting Beanie Babies and shipping them overseas to American troops, who can put the small stuffed toys in their pockets and on their gear to give to the children they come across as tokens of peace. We both agreed that that seemed like a pretty cool project to do, but like most teenagers, we procrastinated and kept putting it off until the last moment possible. Nancy displayed the patience of a saint throughout the entire process, because she sent us email after email, trying to get us to start our project.

Finally, in April, we got the ball rolling by writing a letter to the editor of the Ipswich Chronicle, detailing our plans to start a Beanie Baby drive in the coming weeks. On the first of May, we made a flyer and found a donation box to put in the high school entrance on Friday the 7th. This past week we went around to friends’ houses collecting their heaps of Beanie Babies, and received a big donation of stuffed animals from New England Biolabs today. The final phase of the drive was to consolidate all of the Beanie Babies we had collected over the past week, and drive them down to an organization called Troop Support in Danvers, which ships goods to soldiers overseas free of charge.

My goals while working with Nancy Gallant and Time Well Spent were to improve the lives of others and to teach others about the rewards of serving the community. While I didn’t get to see it first hand, I hope that I improved the lives of some children living in war-torn countries by providing them with a token of comfort and peace in the form of a tiny stuffed animal. I never actually spoke to anyone about the rewards of community service, but hopefully through my actions and my demeanor while I was volunteering, people understood that helping others is worth their while.

I have to chuckle at Robbie’s description of my having the patience of a saint, knowing how often I’ve joked about having the pleasure, “and at times the pain,” of working with community service teens! The truth is that I want the experience to be an enjoyable one, it’s part of what community service should be about ~ participating in a way that is positive, that feeds the soul and lightens the spirit, little problems and glitches along the way and all.

To learn more about DeClutter For Good drive concept, click here.


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