article by Jennifer Steiner (read at MCC.org)

Two groups of students in northern Indiana recently visited the Material Resources Center (MRC) at The Depot in Goshen to volunteer and learn about what MCC does. Both student groups were brought by a teacher or coach who wanted to emphasize the importance of service to their high school aged students.

Sarah Lind and a group of students [pictured are Sierra Campbell and Elaina Youngberg, both class of 2018] and faculty from Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen came as part of their service day – a day when the entire high school volunteers at local organizations.

According to Lind, the group spread out “comforter sandwiches” and basted them together using thread that will later be cut and tied to knot the comforters and hold them together. The student volunteers joined other regular MRC volunteers and were impressed by the speed at which some of the older volunteers worked.

“Our primary goal was to provide service to those in need as part of our service week,” said Lind, the school’s advancement director. “Our secondary goal was to give our students an opportunity to know what many Mennonites are regularly doing as service through the MRC-- to familiarize our students with this part of the Mennonite role in the world.”

For Coach Craig Koehler, bringing his Concord High School varsity football players from Elkhart to the MRC is an important part of helping his student athletes develop an attitude of service.

“A piece in our program is that we’re trying to teach our kids to be servant leaders,” said Koehler. “You can’t just talk about it, you actually have to do it for them to understand what it means to serve and to give to others less fortunate.” The football players are also active in events within the school district, such as elementary reading nights and school fundraisers, along with volunteering around the community.

This is the third year that Koehler has brought his players to volunteer at the MRC. This year 52 students helped in the MRC, as well in the MCC Thrift Shop that shares the building. They worked at things like knotting and baling comforters, washing windows, sweeping, washing out bins, packing kits and sorting thrift shop donations.

Nadine Zook Miller, Material Resources Coordinator at The Depot, is energized by youth who volunteer to help MCC provide much-need supplies to families facing disaster or crisis around the world. “It’s exciting to see the energy and responsiveness children and youth bring to their time here,” she said. “They are amazing people and give me hope in a world where we spend so much time thinking about ourselves.”

Koehler and Lind agree that teaching service to their students is something that needs to be done in a hands-on way, which volunteering at the MRC provides. “We’re constantly looking for ways to teach the kids the service piece,” said Koehler. “It’s hard to engrain it into them unless they actually do it.”

“We believe that service is something that often is hardest to contemplate before doing it,” said Lind. “This gives our students a very valuable experience of what it feels like to share their resources and time, and to connect to the broader Mennonite service community.”

Both educators also agree that teamwork and service go hand-in-hand in what they are trying to teach their students.

“Not only does volunteering help them become better citizens and people, it fits with what we’re teaching them on the field as well,” reflected Koehler. “In football more than any other team sport, you really have to lean on the guy next to you. You have to be a great teammate. Put others ahead of yourself and have a servant mindset.”

“It is a great example of how we can overcome individual limitations to accomplish so much more if we work together through Mennonite organizations,” said Lind.

For more information about donating kit supplies or comforters or to volunteer at your local MCC Material Resources Center, visit mcc.org/kits.