Young Orono students and their families recently came together to spend a Friday evening helping others.
Orono students have long been taught the importance of community service, but this year school officials reached out to the families of some of the district’s youngest learners for a brand new event. The district’s first Family Service Night was held Friday, Oct. 14, at the Intermediate School. Jennifer Lubke, who planned and helped organize the event, said the night was a way for kindergarten through fifth-grade students to get an introduction to service. During the event, which ran from 5-6:30 p.m., attendees were able to learn about nonprofits and partake in projects that benefited some of those organizations.
“It was a whole night of giving back,” Lubke said.
Planning for the Family Service Night began back in May. Lubke found help in parent volunteers Stacey Royal, Alyssa Kanive, Sara Swenson and Jenny Jacques who contacted the nearly 20 organizations that agreed to take part. Royal said the volunteers figured out what was needed for the service projects that event attendees participated in and then looked to the community for help getting those materials. About 25 Orono School District families and the organization Give 60 for #60 contributed materials, she said. General Mills also donated cakes and frosting so attendees could create about 200 birthday bags that will go to local food shelves.
With months of preparation behind them, the volunteers wondered just how popular the service night would be, Royal said. They soon got their answer.
“Right at 5 p.m. families started pouring in,” Royal said. “It was packed the whole night.”
Attendees were asked to bring a book to donate to Read Indeed, the nonprofit started by an Orono student that aims to give all children the ability to own a book. About 1,200 books were donated because of the Family Service Night. Royal said approximately 500 of those came from teachers who cleaned out their bookshelves and found some that they could give to a good cause. The rest came from the families, many of whom brought in more than one book, she said.
Lubke said she heard feedback that even the youngest children at the event seemed to grasp the notion of service, and that they were there to benefit others and not themselves.
Lubke and Royal both said they thought the event was successful, and they hope it will return next year.
“It was a nice community night,” Royal said. “It makes you realize how easy it is to contribute.”
The event capped off a week that also started with a focus on service. On Monday, Orono sixth graders participated in a service fair, which included many of the same organizations that came back to the district for the Family Service Night. The sixth-grade fair kicks off a year-long service project for the students.