Along Midcoast Maine, winter time tends to slow down the recreational scuba diving opportunities. But for two scuba dive buddies, their time out of water, gave them the chance to do some community service.
Divers Sean Kelly and Chip Lagerbom, who also happen to be Lions Club members from the nearby coastal towns of Camden and Belfast, talked about some sort of collaboration between their two organizations and communities. They hit upon the idea for their respective school districts to run an eyeglass, cellphone, and hearing aid collection drive during the month of March.
“March is a tough month to get through here in Maine as we wait for spring, so we wanted it to be something fun and school-oriented and something for the young LEO programs to get involved with,” said Lagerbom.
Both clubs have growing LEO organizations at various stages of development and they thought such a drive might help energize community service spirit at the schools.
LEOs are Lions Club organizations designed for students in K-12 schools which focus on Leadership-Experience-Opportunity. Mirrored off adult Lions Club service organizations and their commitment to community service, LEO clubs are for young people who realize the power of action. LEOs and the local Lions Club form a great partnership.
So such a drive/competition between the two clubs and two school districts was seen by Kelly and Lagerbom as a way to get students and their own adult clubs re-energized and active during the final months of winter. The two towns often compete with each other in high school sports and a good rivalry has developed over the years. Kelly and Lagerbom wanted to tap into that, to help fuel the collecting effort.
The competition was designed to recognize the building which collected the most eyeglasses, cellphones and hearing aids. A percentage formula for the number of collected items divided by the number of students in the building was set up so that smaller schools would not be at a disadvantage.
Official Lions Club certificates would be presented to each participating building, hopefully in an award presentation ceremony to the staff and students presented by some local Lions Club members. And a plaque would be presented to the building which had overall collected the most items.
Kelly and Lagerbom approached their respective school districts and LEO clubs (RSU #71 Belfast and RSU #28 Camden) to help organize the drive. The response was outstanding. In RSU #71 district and surrounding communities, six schools jumped at the opportunity to take part in the drive. Some Lions Club donation boxes were set up, but some of the schools wanted to design and decorate their own collection boxes.
“I was blown away by their interest to get involved and help,” Lagerbom says. “They made the competition fun and educational and worthwhile and the students really responded.”
Some of the schools integrated the collected items into lesson plans involving counting and percentages. School newsletters and Facebook postings helped spread the word. Throughout the month, reminder notes went out to students and parents and staff.
“There was a lot of energy with the drive,” Lagerbom said. “People seemed to come out of the woodwork with bundles of glasses and old phones, many appreciated the opportunity to donate them.”
Children and staff at Belfast Area High School, Troy Howard Middle School, Captain Albert Stevens School, Gladys Weymouth School, Ames Elementary and Kermit Nickerson School each collected, sorted, counted and stored donated items as they came in. Participating buildings in RSU #28 included Camden Hills Regional High School, Camden-Rockport Middle School and Mid-Coast School of Technology.
Belfast Area High School came in first, collecting 599 pairs of glasses, cellphones and hearing aids. Overall, RSU #71 collected 901 items. Camden’s Mid-Coast School of Technology collected 36 items and RSU #28 overall total came in at 88 items. Both districts combined to collect 989 eyeglasses, cellphones and hearing aids.
Even with the contest ending on April 1st, some of the participating schools plan to keep collection boxes available for those who still wish to donate their old, no longer used eyeglasses, cellphones and hearing aids. Already, there is talk of some other kind of drive or effort, something to keep the spirit of community service going.
“It was a great way to get through the final months of winter,” Lagerbom says, “and hopefully got some young (and not so young) people interested in community service!”