Tenth grader Carrie Olson Falahi wanted to start a club, but her mind wasn’t on drama or a specific sport. It was on people. “I’ve always had this idea that I could get people to go out into the community and help other people,” she says.
Carrie, a Laurel in the Springfield Fourth Ward in Missouri, dreams of someday participating in worldwide humanitarian aid, and she didn’t see a reason to wait until after high school to start pursuing that dream. “I really wanted to do something now, so why not start here in my own community?” she says.
She enlisted the help of fellow 10th grader Victoria Sutter and freshman Rebecca Carr to create a new kind of club for their school, the Youth in Action Club. The goal: to spend time—not money—in service. “I think time and service are among the most meaningful things you can give,” Carrie explains.
Rebecca agrees, adding, “It’s fun to get involved in a cause.” Little did these friends know just how much they would gain by giving service to others.
They quickly discovered one of the blessings of service: it brings people together. When Victoria first heard about the club, she was enthusiastic. “I’ve always liked community service,” she says, “but it’s hard going out by myself and doing it.” The club solved that problem. At the very first meeting 20 students showed up, eager to participate. With such a large group, it was easier not only to serve but also to make friends.
The club’s first project was helping a local organization assemble care baskets for mothers with premature newborns. “We were all working close together, and everyone was talking to everyone,” Victoria remembers. “I thought it was neat that we could be doing something for someone else while having fun and making new friends.”
Giving service also had its rewards at the club’s second project: preparing food at a local shelter where parents with severely ill children stay while their child is in the hospital. This was one of Rebecca’s favorites because it played to her love for cooking and gave the students a chance to interact directly with the people they were serving. “It was fun to see the surprise on their faces when they saw that a bunch of teenagers could actually cook something that you could eat!”
Since the club’s beginning in February 2009, the three friends have learned other ways that spending time in service has helped them too. Striving toward the goal of having one project per month, Carrie, Victoria, and Rebecca had to work hard together to organize each event, especially as their group grew from 20 to 50 members.
Before school let out for the summer, the club members put their muscle into helping a local care center for abused children store its stock of winter clothes and unpack its summer supplies. The club also spent a creative afternoon making scrapbooks for children.
With so much planning and organizing, everyone in the club became better team players. Carrie and Rebecca contributed service ideas from their youth group while Victoria found other service opportunities in the community. “The club helped me learn how to let other people share their ideas and do things their way,” Rebecca reflects. “I’ve learned how to better interact with others.”
The team effort of these friends was tested in their last month of school when, with only a week’s notice, their club adviser asked them to organize a food drive, which they carried out with success.
Looking to the future, Carrie, Victoria, and Rebecca plan to expand their club and lay the foundation for it to continue. “We’re hoping to have the club stay strong, even after we’re done with high school,” Rebecca says.
Leaving a legacy is important to these friends because they know the club has great lessons to offer. As they’ve served, Carrie, Victoria, and Rebecca have seen how true it is that you can find your life by giving it (see Matthew 16:25).
With all the friendship, interaction, teamwork, and fun, the Youth in Action Club members have received much more because of the service they’ve given. For Victoria, the club has taught her that the place to serve is here, and the time is now. “Why spend your time sitting around when you can be out doing something for people who can’t do it for themselves?” she says. “You feel so much better knowing that you’ve done something that will be appreciated.”
And for Carrie, giving her time in service has helped her gain new perspectives in her own life. “My attitude towards helping others has changed,” Carrie says. “I’ve helped others through struggles in their lives. I have a new, more open perspective towards everyone.”