Making Holidays Bright Program Spotlight: Stockings for Soldiers
John C. Maxwell, Michigan-born author and leadership speaker said, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” This Christmas, members at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor had a chance to learn that message firsthand. Through the Stockings for Soldiers project, Fettig Youth Campus members organized a project to help ensure service men and women deployed to Kuwait were not forgotten this holiday season. Our members were able to make the soldiers’ holidays a little brighter by sending hand-decorated stockings stuffed with useful items and personal cards with heartfelt sentiment.
During November and December, members from the Fettig Youth Campus worked with area community groups to complete the project. The project turned out to be a tremendous lesson in leadership development and personal development for Club members.
The local Army recruiting office selected a unit to receive the stockings. With a grant from the Benton Harbor Sunrise Rotary Club for mailing costs, the collaboration of the St. Joseph High School and Lake Michigan Catholic High School Rotary Interact Clubs, and the assistance of Maytag Day of Dependability volunteers, youth members were responsible for organizing a collection drive to gather donated items for the stockings, making and hand-decorating stockings, hand-writing letters and drawing cards to individual soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, stuffing all of the items, and finally packaging everything for mailing.
Developing leadership skills starts early at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor and continues throughout membership. Working in small groups, teens make up the Keystone Club at the Teen Center, while younger members participate in the Leadership Council at the Youth Campus. Through these leadership programs, members learn about the importance of academic success, health and fitness, career development, service to Club and community, and social recreation.
Community service is an integral part of Boys & Girls Club programming. Giving back teaches kids a renewed interest and ownership in their community, provides an understanding they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and is a small, practical way to acknowledge all that this community does for the Club.
Members learn one person can make a difference. It is an empowering message that they are influential enough to have an impact on someone else. Service teaches leadership and helps members build character, gives kids a sense of responsibility and teaches the benefits of sacrifice and tolerance to create meaningful future job skills.