United Way can guide those who must complete volunteer community service hours [United Way column] | Together

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I am living proof that court-ordered community service can transform an individual. A little over six years ago, I was sentenced to 200 hours of community service on a misdemeanor charge. I had no idea how I was going to squeeze in so many hours in the time allotted to me. It seemed impossible. I knew, however, that a jail cell was at the end of the due date if I failed to complete the job, so I quickly began considering my options.

The United Way of Lancaster County Volunteer Center is a long-standing resource for community members who are actively seeking community service hours.

Our Get Connected Volunteer online portal, located at uwlanc.org/volunteer, hosts a full list of 25 accredited organizations on the front page. It can be shared, emailed and printed as needed.

Many would think that community service roles are limited to manual labor. It was also my first thought when I started my service hours. What I learned, however, was that the type of service work available ranged from “heavy lifting” to “no lifting at all” (my type was obviously the latter).

The list includes a range of service opportunities, as well as organizations that have left their list open. When contacting organizations that have been approved for court-ordered hours of service, it’s helpful to share if you have experience in a specific area or if you have any specialized skills or training they might find. useful.

Community service hours can be restorative for those who view the work as reparation for the damage and destruction of their past behavior. This work brings incredible value to the community and has the potential to change the heart and mind of the individual doing the work.

My last 40 hours have been spent scheduling VITA tax calls with PA 211. PA 211 East is the locally supported 211 center staffed by United Way of Lancaster County.

During my time there, I was constantly thanked for my contributions and felt like part of the staff, temporary or otherwise.

At the end of my hours, the director of 211 signed my hours, put down her pen and gave me a hug. She encouraged me to apply for the next 211 job posting, and I did. Now, six years later, I have just been promoted to Associate Director of Community Initiatives.

I personally urge anyone navigating court-ordered community service to contact our volunteer center, and we will be happy to provide support while you complete your hours. You can reach us at [email protected]

Julie Kennedy is Community Initiatives Manager for United Way of Lancaster County.

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