Working for a cause not left on pause

Students strive to make change by volunteering over the summer


Photo Courtesy of Sophia Bailey

Sophia Bailey on her third trip to the store for the Teens Leading Change menstrual products drive, all products purchased with monetary donations to the drive.

 Over the summer, junior Maggie Macmullen started volunteering with Letters for Rose, an organization dedicated to sending letters to nursing home residents to help them feel less alone as visitors, even their own families, cannot see them due to COVID-19. After discovering that there was no Arlington chapter of the organization, Macmullen and a few other girls from the Arlington Public Schools (APS) district decided to start their own.

“We reached out to the heads of the organization,” Macmullen said. “We asked them to start a chapter and we went through a whole introduction process, [so] we made sure we were educated on exactly what we had to do, and [we] created a social media account.”

Since creating the Arlington chapter, Macmullen has been contacting volunteers, and instructing them on how to go about writing their letters. 

“In other chapters, they have sent letters to nursing homes and actually had residents take pictures with the letters, and they just look really happy,” Macmullen said. “The letters  really lift their mood, brighten their day, and just make them really happy and they’re really thankful for it.”

This satisfaction from making an impact is a large factor for many  who start volunteering. Not only do volunteers get to see the joy from those they help, but they also have the opportunity to make an impact in their community.

“It felt good to know that I was helping people and that I was working to better their situation,” said junior Zoe Woehrmyer. “I loved getting all the donations because it really showed me how much good can be done when people come together to reach a common goal.”

Recently, Woehrmyer ran a drive for Afghan refugees, collecting more than  10,000 toiletries, kid’s toys and more. After collecting these items, Woehrmyer and her family would drive to mosques and other locations housing refugees, to donate the goods to the homes of refugees.

“We donate a lot of baby supplies to the refugees and I can tell that it makes people’s lives a lot easier, since they do not have to worry about getting diapers, baby food, etc,” Woehrmyer said. “I can’t even imagine having to care for a child in their circumstances, and I see how donating these supplies has alleviated some of the parents’ stress regarding caring for their children.” 

Running and volunteering in drives, like that of Woehrmyer, allows students to be directly involved in their community and connect their volunteer work with something they are passionate about. Senior Sophia Bailey co-founded a teen volunteering group called Teens Leading Change (TLC). 

“We help local organizations by raising awareness and doing drives,” said Bailey. “For example, our biggest drive has been for menstrual products. We raised money and products and donated them to three different organizations: I Support The Girls, Northern Virginia Family Service, and Doorways.”

TLC was founded when Bailey was around 13 years old, but has expanded throughout her years in high school. 

“I wanted to be involved in something where I felt like I was making a difference,” said Bailey. “For me, this is best done through local organizations. When volunteering in this manner, you feel involved and can see the change you are helping to make.”

Recently, TLC finished a book drive, collecting books to be donated to the organization DC Books to Prisons, a group dedicated to helping to build libraries in local correctional facilities. Projects like these are brainstormed when TLC meets.

“Once we have ideas, we’ll do more research into what is the most applicable option and the most effective ways we can help,” said Bailey. “We get in contact with bigger organizations, spread information, make flyers/posters, and promote whatever we are doing at the time.”

Those looking to find opportunities to volunteer can experience a wide variety of projects through the W-L Key Club. Key Club offers students many opportunities to participate in local projects throughout the year.

“Last year, while we didn’t have that many volunteering opportunities, one was the Halloween drive where we organized candy for kids who couldn’t go trick-or-treating because of COVID[-19] and passed out candy,” said Rose Haron, a Key Club officer. 

With its casual set up and easy access, Key Club is an appealing volunteering opportunity to many looking to volunteer. 

“It’s very low commitment meetings every other week, and you can just show up, you don’t have to come to every meeting,” said Haron. “Since the club is so big, we can’t really meet in one classroom, so you have to reserve the Little Theatre, but other than that, it’s pretty much standard club procedures [for COVID-19 protocols].”

When looking for ways to volunteer, there are many opportunities that can be explored, the internet being among the best resources.

“Most opportunities are advertised online somewhere,” said Bailey. “If you’re passionate about something specific, chances are someone else is too!”