By Maggie Deller
At McNicholas High School, students must volunteer time to a charity as a graduation requirement. Through freshman and sophomore year, students need to volunteer for at least 20 hours with some sort of agency. Students through junior and senior year need 20 hours of volunteer time with the underprivileged. McNick alum Maia Forman, Class of 2016, and seniors Lauren Mindrum and Sam Veeneman, have earned service hours volunteering at Stepping Stones.
“Stepping Stones is a United Way partner agency meeting educational, social, recreation and respite needs of more than 1,000 children, teens and adults in year-round and seasonal programs,” Volunteer Coordinator of Stepping Stones and McNicholas alumna of 2011 Sara Eby said. “Stepping Stones’ mission is to increase independence, improve lives, and promote inclusion for children and adults with disabilities.”
Volunteer options range from summer activities, weekday activities, and Saturday activities. Over the summer, students can volunteer at Stepping Stones programs such as the Summer Day Camp and Overnight Staycations. During the school year, volunteer opportunities include Saturday Kids Clubs, Saturday Young Adults Clubs, and Weekend Overnight Respites.
According to Eby, volunteers will be assigned to a group or a program area under supervision from the staff. “Volunteers… engage participants in a variety of activities such as art, sports, sensory, and many other activities,” she said. “[Volunteers] really get to learn a lot about the participant and how they can support that participant and engage them in the activities.”
Stepping Stones offers an experience to its volunteers that is ideal for Catholic school service hours. “Working with people of different life circumstances than yourself is very much in line with the Catholic idea of universal connections and putting good into the world,” Forman said.
“Volunteering at Stepping Stones allows you to form bonds with awesome participants, see their growth and excitement about the programs, and experience a new community in an engaging and exciting setting. It is really rewarding to help make the programs accessible and fun for each participant,” Forman said. “All of my best summer memories have been spending time with kids at camp, swimming, coloring, or just playing games.”
“Volunteers should have a sincere desire to help people with disabilities,” Eby said. “A positive attitude and sensitivity are key to being an effective volunteer.”
“I have always had a love for volunteering there because [the campers] are all such happy and beautiful people,” Mindrum said.
To apply, students need to complete a volunteer application. After applying, volunteers receive a confirmation and must read the volunteer handbook. Volunteers will then receive training for the program.
All volunteers need to be at least thirteen years old for the Summer Day Camp at Given and Kids Club, and at least sixteen years old to volunteer at the Adult Programs, Summer Overnight Camp at Allyn, and the Young Adults Club, according to Eby.
Local Stepping Stones locations include their Given Campus in Indian Hill and the Allyn Campus in Amelia.
“I like making the campers smile,” Veeneman said. “It brings a really warm feeling to my heart. Whether it’s talking about something they like or cracking a joke, making them smile is really fun.”
Stepping Stones offers volunteer opportunities for students to help people aged 5-65+ with developmental disabilities. There are many ways to get involved, such as becoming a weekday, weekend, or summer volunteer.