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Heritage Day: When Giving Back Got Real

Vina-Andrea Aguirre

Vina-Andrea Aguirre

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As a freshman, I never understood Heritage Day until I participated in it last month.

I had gotten emails, seen flyers, and observed upperclassmen wearing the t-shirts, but I had never grasped its purpose. When I asked another student about the day, all I heard was that it was about “community service.”

I was confused.

A whole day for community service? As a whole school?

I knew people who had volunteered at soup kitchens, and I had a few scattered experiences with community service through school food drive and church coat collections. However, I never gave much thought about volunteering after high school.

Little did I know that would change very quickly.

On the big day, I walked into Johnston Hall with my friends in tow and was given a card with a location. I found the corresponding table and sat with  group of strangers. We heard multiple members of our Moravian community come and explain our mission for the day: to give back to the community that gives us so much.

I never realized the number of people and businesses that provide for us. They not only supply services, money, and scholarships, but also generate an overall welcoming community.

That morning as we walked to the buses, my group mates and I chatted briefly about what we thought the day was going to bring. None of us were too excited when we found out that our job for the day would consist of wiping down gym equipment and pulling weeds at the YMCA in Allentown. Wasn’t that a job that janitors had already taken care of?

Boy, was I was wrong.

We all got bussed to our locations and got straight to work. I was wiping down chairs and free weights for the elderly members of the YMCA. It was as glamorous as it sounded.

But while I was there, I learned a bit about the center. I discovered this YMCA remains open primarily because of volunteer labor, so our job wasn’t made for janitors at all. The majority of the positions filled and work completed was done by volunteers who simply look to improve the resources and quality of life of those living in the community.

While we worked, many employees and members thanked us for giving our time. What struck me was their appreciation of our small sacrifice of time and energy. The members told us how they were happy that the gym was getting cleaned because flu season was coming up.

With that in mind, I scrubbed those weights until they were spotless.

The YMCA provides multifaceted services from healthcare and fitness centers to support groups, and I was proud that I was able to be just a small part of their widespread community outreach. That knowledge made my experience worthwhile.

The feeling of pride and the sense of community I felt swelled when I stood together with the 1,270 other students who contributed to the experience at the end of the day.

I was surrounded by old friends, new friends I made that day, and others that I had never met. I also knew that I was a part of a family that valued giving back, and knew how to appreciate the assistance and kindness that our loving community shares with us.

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