During this ongoing Lent season, people on and around campus in Columbia should strive to give back to the Carolina community and be involved in acts of service during these difficult times.
While most people tend to associate Lent with giving something up such as junk food or social media, many tend to forget that another key aspect of these 40 days leading up to Easter can also consist of acts of community service and giving back to others.
According to the Catholic Volunteer Network, one of the four “pillars of Lent” is "Social Justice" — this can vary from donating clothes or toiletries to those less fortunate, volunteering once a week at a food kitchen or becoming more educated in social issues such as human trafficking and immigration, among other things.
Though the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made finding such opportunities more difficult, many options still exist within the community for people to volunteer.
The Transitions Homeless Shelter, which is located on Main Street, helps to feed different meals to the homeless on a daily basis. Through filling out a sign up form on its website, one is able to get a tour of the entire facility, attend an orientation session, and learn more about the different available shifts to sign up for.
Another great example of giving back to the community can be found within the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Columbia. Specifically, its specializes in providing for families with different needs as they travel for their children's medical care around Columbia. While volunteering in-person is currently suspended due to COVID-19, other ways to help would be to donate items found on its wish list and to follow its social media accounts to share content.
United Way of the Midlands, another service opportunity, is located on Blanding Street. This group specializes in giving back to the community through means of supplying food and other resources to the homeless and those who do not have access to basic health needs.
Volunteering opportunities within this organization can include purchasing items for its cold weather supply drive, online tutoring, and becoming a blood donor among many different things — all of these can be found on its website and ongoing calendar.
These are just a few of the many opportunities to volunteer and give back within this community. While Lent provides the perfect reason to go out and do these things, volunteering in general helps to improve people’s mental health and dynamics with one another.
According to a recent study, some impacts of volunteering can include counteracting the effects of anger or stress, combatting depression, increasing self confidence, providing a sense of purpose and helping one stay physically healthy.
Even if people do not consider themselves to be religious, giving back to others and the community within Columbia can make a real difference in others’ lives who may be struggling greatly due to the pandemic and other circumstances.
This past year has been extremely difficult for everyone. As COVID-19 continues to impact different communities throughout the United States, we must always remember that there are those who are less fortunate than us. Giving back and volunteering will not only impact other peoples' lives greatly, but also those who choose to be involved in service during the Lent season.