Devils turn out to give back

Annual Day of Service enlists hundreds of Central students to meet others' needs

About 200 students and staff from Hinsdale Central High School fanned out across the area Saturday morning in a spirit of volunteerism for the school's annual Day of Service.

Sponsored by the Red Devil Service Club, which aims to benefit the surrounding community through philanthropic opportunities, teams of volunteers are sent to various locations to extend help in whatever way they can.

Senior Zack Azmy, co-president of the service club, said other Central clubs and sports teams are enlisted to take on projects such as forest preserve cleanups, working at a food pantry and helping out at the Hinsdale Humane Society.

"The main purpose of the event is for students from Hinsdale Central to be able to integrate themselves into the community," Azmy said. "They see that they're not only part of the Central community but part of the greater society and to have that awareness and giving a helping hand to those other organizations."

Projects were chosen with the number of members available in mind, The boys basketball team had 30 participants, for instance, so was well-suited to furnish the laborers needed to pack nutritious meals at Feed My Starving Children in Aurora. The smaller ecology club, by turn, collected litter at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn.

Sara Pendergrass, one the service club's faculty sponsors, said 18 different locations welcomed Central helpers.

"The goal is getting as many Hinsdale Central students volunteering simultaneously as possible," she commented.

The club posted flyers around school with a QR code to sign up, and the event was included in the daily school announcements. Students also could register individually to participate. They all gathered first at the school for a quick orientation at 8 a.m. Those going to off-site locations then loaded onto their vans and buses, while other groups stayed back to do some chores on campus.

"There was a group of people that helped the building and grounds people clean the school inside and outside," said Azmy, who was on that crew. "And then we helped set up the football field before Saturday's game."

A dozen high school students partnered with memory care residents at Harvester Place in Burr Ridge to make blankets for patients at Amita Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale. Danyanique Hughes, life engagement director for Harvester Place, was thankful for the teens' outreach.

"Many of our residents have been involved in community service throughout their lives and dementia doesn't diminish their desire to help others," Hughes said. "We appreciate every opportunity to engage with the younger generation. The residents and children always seem to mesh so well, as if they've known each other for years. Giving back to the community is an added bonus."

Other groups served at People's Resource Center's food pantry in Westmont and the Indian Prairie Public Library. Azmy said the hope is that service becomes a regular part of the Red Devils' life rhythms, especially as they move on to college and beyond.

"We feel if we have students practice community service at a young age, they'll continue doing it as they go forward," Azmy said.

Pendergrass said the day affords all participants the chance to come alongside or learn more about those who may be less fortunate or have unique circumstances to navigate.

"We are extremely proud of this year's participants and the impact they made on their local community, especially during a time that is so difficult for many," she said,

Azmy said it was gratifying to hold the Day of Service again after last year's event was canceled by COVID-19.

As a longtime volunteer at the Ray Graham Association's Hanson Center in Burr Ridge, Azmy understands the constant need that nonprofits have for assistance in various forms.

"Every year they are so grateful for any help they get," he said.

The projects also foster club camaraderie.

"They act as a group together, which really creates a better experience for everybody there," Azmy commented. "They know that they're doing it for the greater good, and people look forward to each year."

Speaking of the "boost of serotonin" that infuses his soul when he serves, Azmy expects others felt that, too, on Saturday,

"It was great event overall," he said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean