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Welcome to the next installment in our “Who Gives a Chip?” series, which celebrates the everyday heroes in our community. Their passion, and commitment to ‘giving a chip,’ inspires us, and we hope it will do the same for you.

The students in North Branford High School’s Helping Hands work to improve their town and give back to the community that has supported them throughout their educational careers. We spoke with the club’s officers – President Pat, Vice President and Publicist Rexhina, Secretary Jessica, and Treasurer Mary. Find out what inspires them to give back!

1. What encouraged you to get involved with Helping Hands?
Quite simply, we wanted to contribute to the community and help people. Ultimately we want to make a difference in the lives of others, especially the lives of people in the North Branford community. Our town has given us many things over the years (our education, safety and support, guidance from teachers and mentors, exposure to extracurricular activities and sports), and we wanted to be able to give back to them.

2. What kinds of things does the group do, and how do those things contribute to its overall goals?
Our goals are to, as we mentioned above, help the community of North Branford when there are needs. We are reactive to the needs of the community – when something is needed (a volunteer, donation, fundraiser organized) – we get it done.
We also strive to get other students involved in town events and provide them with opportunities to volunteer. Some things we’ve done in the past are:
• Annual toiletry drive to support our town’s food pantry and food bank
• Volunteering at soup kitchens and food banks
• Partnerships with local elementary schools:
o St. Baldrick’s Cut-a-Thon (fundraiser to raise money for childhood cancer research)
o Halloween Activity Night (volunteer to help fun events for children and their families)
o Night to Care (gathering and sorting gifts for needy families for holiday season)
o Cleaning and beautifying the courtyard working alongside the elementary school students
• Supporting local veterans (send letters, gifts for veterans day)
• Assisting elderly in town with landscaping and yardwork
• Assist with recreation department (volunteer at various events – Potato and Corn Festival, tree lighting)
• Collecting monetary donations for local charities (coalition against domestic violence)

3. What is the hardest part of what you do?
It’s difficult to see so many people who are in need – especially children. For many of us, this is our first exposure to seeing these struggles. Sometimes you want to do even more, but our resources are limited. And, especially as students, there is only so much we can. As officers, we are motivated, but trying to motivate the other students is sometimes not as easy.

4. What makes it all worth it to you?
Smiles and thank you notes. Big recognition is not important, but knowing that you made a difference when someone needed it changes everything. We know that we can’t change the world, but knowing that we can make a difference for even one person is what matters to us, and that’s what makes it worth it.

5. What would you tell someone who is looking to make a difference in their community?
Get out there and do it. There is nothing stopping you from getting out there and helping people. There’s no right or wrong way to start, but the most important thing is that you get out there and find opportunities. It can be as little as donating to the food pantry, making a small donation, or giving up your Saturday afternoon to volunteer at an event. Every change begins with the idea to make a change – so get that idea, and get out there!

You can learn more about North Branford High School by visiting their website. If your school (or your child’s school) has a club like Helping Hands, we encourage you to get involved! If there isn’t a club like Helping Hands yet, why not take the initiative and start one?

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