For more than 20 years, students pursuing social work degrees at Keuka College have participated in a day of service at the Salvation Army in Rochester.
The annual event held every Friday before Thanksgiving, provides students a hands-on learning opportunity and the chance to make a difference in the community, said Stephanie Craig, chair and associate professor of social work.
“Our students provide the personnel for the Salvation Army to maintain its mission to the community at holiday time,” said Craig. “We help with the Christmas Assistance Registration, where needy families and individuals sign up for food and toys for Christmas.”
According to Craig, the students interviewed hundreds of individuals who applied for assistance.
“Students asked personal questions about income and expenses in households,” said Craig. “The information is then put into a computerized database and an appointment is printed out for the individual or family. Some students also filled Christmas stockings with age-appropriate toys to be given out during distribution days later in December.”
For Samantha Luce, a senior social work major from Batavia, working at the Salvation Army “helped me know how to interact with clients and meet different people. It made me familiar with some of the paperwork and computer work I could be doing, and it allowed me to work and learn on my own.”
For example, Luce said she “learned how to better approach certain situations and individuals, which helped me put textbook material into real-life practice.”
Freshman social work majors Allyson Strauf, a resident of Homer, and Dundee resident Haley Brown completed intakes.
“The Salvation Army was a place where I was able to interact with people and talk to them positively, and people responded positively back to me,” said Strauf. “I learned more social skills and what it really is like to work with people on a personal level.”
Brown agrees, and credits her Keuka classes for preparing her for this experience, and a career in social work.
“My classes helped me a lot with what to expect,” said Brown. “What I learned in my classes prepared me for the type of people I could meet and how to act around them.”
Crystal Billings, a sophomore social work major from Groton, was responsible for giving tickets to the clients for food and toy distribution.
“With that, I explained what they would need to bring,” she said. “I also helped fix any holds that were placed due to someone not having the proper paperwork or identification.”
Billings said volunteering at the Salvation Army helped her work with people who are in many different situations. She also credits her classes with “understanding that everyone coming through the door is there to get help. The fact that they were asking was a big deal, because it may have taken a lot to do that.”
Colleen Booth, a junior social work major from Rochester, enjoyed her time volunteering at the Salvation Army.
“I had the experience of meeting individuals, putting their information into the system, and updating their information if they are already in the system for this wonderful benefit,” said Booth.
Added Booth: “I chose social work because I truly love helping people and giving them hope that things will get better. I believe volunteering is just a small part of giving back to the community. My classes have given me the confidence and knowledge to help people in my community, and to become more professional at my job.”