October 30, 2014

Drive-by community service projects… and nobody gets hurt!

Drive-by service opportunities are not quite what they sound like and provide immediate benefit to your campus’ local community. They are projects that are ready-made for students, faculty and staff to jump right into, take only a few minutes, and provide solid impact. They are accomplished by partnering with local or national community service groups such as Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, Special Olympics, Food for the Poor, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, to name a few. Though I’ve been student leadership and community service trainer for over two decades, over the past several years in particular I’ve been working with organizations such as the APCA and on campuses across the country to improve their drive-by aim… and nobody gets hurt!

Dave Kelly - Community Service and Campus Activities

Here are just a few examples of drive-by opportunities available to students:

  • Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for homeless shelters
  • Assembling boo-boo bunnies for small children at hospitals, daycares, and elementary schools. These are little wash cloth animals with room to slide in an ice cube so a child can place it on a boo-boo to feel better.
  • Make cards out of construction paper for kids in the hospital, troops overseas or residents of nursing homes. You would need the paper and other supplies such as scissors, glue, markers and other decorative items.
  • Make Play-Doh or silly putty for kids in head start and daycares using flour, water, salt and food coloring.
  • Make flowers for hospital trays and assembling snack bags for organizations like the USO.
  • Making dog toys out of old t-shirts. Make sure you’ve already contacted local animal shelter to bring those in. Maybe have them bring a couple for dogs to the school during the project so the students can make a connection as the dogs are actually playing with the toys they’ve made.
  • Writing letters to troops overseas.
  • Assembling portable trash bags to help clean up the campus.
  • Creating holiday-themed items to be given to people in nursing homes.
  • Coloring in books marks for elementary school children.

At one APCA conference alone student volunteers made 75 boo-boo bunnies, more than two dozen creatively decorated cards, and a whopping 142.5 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! All of this in just under two hours! The impact of these projects was huge and immediate. Because of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches alone, more than 100 people were fed that day through the caring of APCA students. And the total cost of the PB&J project was a mere $50.

Clearly, community service is an inexpensive programming option. But, how does a school engage in and create a program on their campus? I’ve facilitated round-tables and direct service-related educational sessions to answer that very question. Because this topic is trending on campuses everywhere, I’ve also presented the education sessions on how to create and sustain a community service program on campus and on planning and conducting service projects and fundraisers.

Sarah Smith, Student Activities Board President for the University of Virginia-Wise has said this about the sessions: “A lot of great info and I feel more confident about raising money & planning service projects with my organization.”

Why this focus on community service? Here is what APCA Executive Director Eric Lambert wrote in the organization’s publication, Student Activities Journal: “Anything we can do to publicize and aid in the effort with or generally promote charity and activism is good with me. Activism is a necessary and integral part of student development in my opinion. Regardless of the direction of community service that the student is interested in, a passion for becoming involved in the community is a prerequisite to becoming a leader in that community. I believe colleges help to produce experts. Student Life should help to produce citizens.”

Sure, the impact on the communities and campuses from these activities is huge and immediate. But what about the impact on the students? One student wrote this after attending one of the ed sessions: “I aspire to be a leader, so one day, I can make a difference. Thank you for showing me that it’s possible.”

Learn more about this topic from Dave on
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“How to pull off a Drive-By Community Service Project”

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Series Navigation<< How to Serve Your Community All Year Long
About the Author: Dave "Gonzo" Kelly (62 Posts)

Dave Kelly is the leading authority on Student Leadership and Community Service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from Student Government Associations, Campus Activities Boards and campus clubs of every kind on Campus Organization Leadership and Community Service Projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 140 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.


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  1. […] first – and actually really easy – idea is to set up a number of what I call “Drive-by Service Project stations” at the main orientation site that allow students to get immediately involved. Each station […]

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  6. [...] events on your campus. Conduct a “Service is Best to Relieve Stress” campaign near and set-up “drive-by” service tables in a high traffic area on campus. These are projects that take very little time and are [...]

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