This December marked the 10th Annual Community Service Day for Providence Country Day School, where nearly 200 students, faculty, and staff members spent the day serving nonprofit organizations and communities throughout the greater Providence area.
What started as a simple initiative to expand the school's commitment to community service has now grown to become a treasured annual tradition with significant and lasting community partnerships among area senior centers, churches, homeless shelters, early education programs, and Boys & Girls clubs. Throughout its ten-year history, service projects have spanned dozens of diverse volunteer sites and included activities from prepping and serving meals, to leading story time and craft activities with preschool children, as well as general cleaning, painting and yard-work.
Long-standing partner organizations such as the Bristol Good Neighbors Food Pantry, East Bay Community Action Program, and the Camp Street Community Ministries agree that the work the students lead on Community Service Day is invaluable. "As a small nonprofit, everything is done by volunteers. It's a big help to have students from PCD undertake the tasks that otherwise simply go undone," says Mary Bishop, a volunteer with the Camp Street Community Ministries. "One year, our yard was ankle high in leaves. The PCD students were eager to help and didn't hesitate to grab a rake and gloves. Together they raked 20 bags of leaves in just a few hours. We're grateful for their help and their contributions help us fill the gaps in our service to the community."
With a special all-school assembly, prominent guest speakers, and a day outside the classroom working together to help others, Community Service Day allows students to learn the importance of service and new ways in which it can become a life-long pursuit. Seniors Anna Oliveira and Saarah Papineau launched the Community Service Club at PCD and have led several service ventures that include a pajama drive for local foster children and most recently a cooperative book club between students and seniors in a nearby assisted living center.
"For my freshman year, I went to a food distribution center and helped sort cans. I learned how food stamps work and why people require the services we were helping with that day," says Papineau '19. "As a group of teenagers, we left with a greater understanding of the difficult circumstances local families can face. I think Community Service Day helps students gain a greater understanding of the world around them."
With more than 250 community service hours in four years, Papineau is among many at PCD that work to make a difference in the communities where PCD students and faculty live and work. Providence Country Day is historically the biggest contributor to the East Bay Community Action Program through its participation in the program's Adopt-A-Family initiative for which PCD students raise funds to purchase holiday gifts for local families in the greater Providence community. Other service-focused initiatives include clothing and toiletry drives to benefit Good Neighbors Rhode Island and the Dorcas International Institute.
Associate Head of School Mark McLaughlin observed, "As we help our students prepare for lives of leadership and civic engagement, a core part of that is empathy. Community Service Day allows for a new level of understanding and perspective. Right here in our neighborhood are residents and families that don't share the same advantages of our students. We have a responsibility to support our communities and help our kids develop new practices of service and community engagement."