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West Jordan Journal

West Jordan teens serve their neighbors

Feb 27, 2017 11:53AM ● By Jet Burnham

Students look forward to doing odd jobs for neighbors. (Wendy Knowles)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
When West Jordan High students raised funds for the Tyler Robinson Foundation in December, they engaged in service that provided long-term benefits to their entire community. 
“We don’t ask the student body for money; we ask for their time,” said student body president Brenna Booth.
Going from house to house in the high school’s boundary area, groups of students donated time in three-hour shifts by offering services in return for a donation to the charity they’d chosen to serve.
Students served in a variety of ways during these Odd Jobs shifts. They raked leaves, shoveled snow, picked grapes, made chocolate-covered pretzels, fed pet snakes, cooked breakfast, swept kitchens, set up and decorated Christmas trees, hung lights, read books to kids, walked dogs, sang carols, wrapped gifts and  licked Christmas card envelopes.
Most residents welcomed students inside out of the cold. The teens received a lot of hot chocolate for their efforts and of course, a lot of donations. More than $24,000—nearly half of the money earned through their fundraising—was from this Odd Jobs activity, Booth said.
“It’s cool to see our community that way—knowing your community, how generous they are,” said Chito Bastida, student body vice president.
Calli Gines, senior class vice president, is proud of the way the community supported the school.
 “Our community is great,” she said. “They are willing to help. We couldn’t have done it without support from them.”
The money donated benefited families who have children with cancer but the students discovered a bigger family that was also benefiting from their service—their neighborhoods.
Students had special experiences and made emotional connections with community members they served. Calli said the most rewarding service she gave was helping a woman with limited mobility wrap her Christmas gifts. Calli was touched by the opportunity to help someone who needed it.
Brenna had a special experience with a resident who admitted he didn’t have money to give. He told them his wife had health problems and they’d been going through difficult financial times. Brenna’s group happily raked his leaves anyway. He offered them the only payment he could—a hug. Lining them up on his porch, the grateful man gave each teen what Brenna described as “a million-dollar hug.”
Brenna organized the school’s boundary area into routes. Members of student government managed the 70 students who signed up to work each night—150 on the final night’s shift.
The community is starting to anticipate the annual odd job activity that begins in December. Jansen Nipko, student VP of productions, explained how student government officers delivered fliers to residents, notifying them of the upcoming activity.
West Jordan resident Wendy Knowles was caught unprepared for the volunteers last year. This year, she set aside the task of winterizing her outdoor furniture for when the group of students came in their school shirts and carrying water jugs for collections.
 “I love that they are willing to serve,” she said.
The entire student body was behind the 2016 fundraiser. Booth said when she was a sophomore, only 10 students would show up for shifts, and they only earned about $200 a night with Odd Jobs. This year, they averaged 70 students per night and earned an average of $1,200 per night.
Senior Class President Rylee Lewis said some students were able to use their Spanish and Sign Language skills to communicate with residents. It was another way to connect with the community.
 “It’s cool to see what students can do,” she said.
Serving together also provided the opportunity to get to know other students in a new way, she said. Head cheerleader Adlyn Iwun was surprised by some students who were not the type she’d expected to volunteer that signed up for Odd Jobs shifts. 
“It was cool to see who showed up,” she said.
Students enthusiastically wore their “Make A Difference” T-shirts, which were only available to students who worked four Odd Job shifts.
“T-shirts were a huge incentive,” Booth said. “You can’t just buy it, so it has meaning.” The shirts became so popular with students that a second order had to be placed.
Student involvement and enthusiasm for the project spread to their families as well. One night, Chito’s 4-year-old brother volunteered to be part of his brother’s Odd Jobs team.
 “This’ll be something I’ll look back on—like a stepping stone to real life,” Chito said. “This built me. Because of this, I want to stay close with local charity.”
Brenna is proud of her school and what they accomplished.
 “It’s empowering how this affects us,” she said. “We shared some tears and spent so much time. We and the school have grown closer because of this.”