Contributed by Barry Katz, Co-Found of Lotsa Helping Hands
At Lotsa Helping Hands, we’ve been super busy with the launch of our new Open Community Model. Open Communities are designed to help more than one family, especially when members of the Community may not always know all the people being helped in the community. Open Communities are searchable using the Lotsa Helping Hands location-based search form and allow for interested volunteers to lend a hand and neighbors in need to request help. Often schools, community groups and religious organizations use the Open Community Model.
As we planned for the release of our Open Communities, memories of our own experiences in our communities came to mind. For me, memories of scouting – both my own experience and as father to two girls, come to mind. I was heavily involved with the Girl Scout troop in my own town when my daughters were young. I grew up learning survival and camping skills as well as community service and camaraderie through Scouting, and I wanted my girls to learn those same life skills as well as understand how it feels to give back to their community.
I started early-on to make inroads with the Girl Scout leaders around town, and when it came time for my girls to participate, they were very excited that I had been, as a dad, granted permission to assist the troop leader in planning and executing camping trips, as well as participating in their community service projects. Of course, back in that day, it was a challenge to find and organize the types of community service activities that the girls could easily participate in. An Open Community would have been perfect for organizing the activities of our troop, had it been available then.
Community service has come a long way since my days of leading my girls’ troops. High Schools in many towns now require some number of community service hours to graduate. Scout Troops (boys and girls) are now actively visiting their local nursing homes and fulfilling many of the needs of housebound neighbors within the community.
A lot of this community-building activity is often run through the local Girl Scout Troops, Boy Scout Troops and High Schools. And a growing number of these groups are coordinating their efforts using the new Lotsa Helping Hands Open Community model.
Dr. Chill, the well-known blogger in Chicago put it eloquently when she said:
“In this new model, several families in a neighborhood can be helped at once by drawing upon the resources of neighbors. For example, Mrs. Smith is ill and Mr. Smith needs help caring for her, but he doesn’t have a close network of family and friends to support him. In the open community model, others in the neighborhood who want to volunteer can search for families near them and sign up to help, even if they don’t know them (yet). The idea is cool, innovative, and necessary. We live in a society with risks of isolation and separateness all around us. With a structured online tool in place, perhaps neighborhoods can actually get to know each other again.”
At Lotsa Helping Hands we believe in a world where everyone can give and receive help through the power of community. We could not be more proud to hear from Girl Scout Troops, bloggers like Dr. Chill, and Members of our many Lotsa Helping Hands Communities who feel the same.
But the opportunity to organize help in your community doesn’t stop with the Girl Scouts or your neighbors. If you know of a group or a town that could use the help in organizing their ready, willing and able volunteers, share our 10 Tips flier with them. And tell us a favorite memory of community service from your childhood or share what you are doing today to help others.