Stephanie Shell, Chapter Advisor for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, proudly reports that the chapter significantly improved its performance this past year in the school’s 10th Annual Campus Shoebox Campaign. They collected 306 shoeboxes, an increase from 197 the year prior.
Stephanie notes that the campaign has been an annual fall tradition on the campus since 2013. Its purpose is to promote both an individual and collective sense of altruism. It also helps encourage a commitment to community service and a high level of civic engagement. It’s certainly a big undertaking.
"The campaign is held every year during October and November, leading up to the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) national collection week in mid-November. Our chapter solicits donations and grants to cover shipping costs for all the shoeboxes to promote participation in the project."
The chapter’s accomplishment depended on cooperation and collaboration with other groups and UVA Wise students, faculty, and staff.
"We collaborate with the school’s athletic department to purchase pre-printed shoeboxes that are assembled by our school’s marching band. These are distributed throughout campus for individuals that want to participate. This year, we also held a campus-wide packing party with nearly 20 other groups."
Small Acts Build a Stronger Community
Community service and participation in national service projects like the UVA Wise shoebox campaign is an important tenet of the NSLS mission to build leaders who make a better world. Stephanie notes that people from all parts of the campus participate each year.
“The campaign offers an opportunity for everyone to get involved in this unique service project with a worldwide impact. From individual students and employees, to campus departments, athletic teams, and individual clubs and organizations.”
However, the chapter’s participation went beyond packing the shoeboxes. The group’s leadership was also able to get a glimpse of the logistics involved in the campaign.
“In addition to the campus campaign, several members of our E-Board were able to travel to the OCC Processing Center in Boone, North Carolina to prepare the shoeboxes for delivery around the world; a different opportunity after the shoeboxes left our campus.”
Compassion and Communication Make the Difference
Through multiplying societal challenges, it’s more important than ever to perform acts of kindness and community assistance. But it can also be more difficult to enlist sufficient support to make a noticeable difference.
According to Stephanie, what helped encourage the members of the UVA Wise chapter was a combination of good communication and a strong foundation of empathy.
“Organization was critical to manage all the details for the campaign. Effective communication was essential to promote the campaign, and involve individuals and groups across campus. Empathy for the shoebox recipients as well as everyone involved in the shoebox journey was also important to understanding the significance of this project.”
Learning How to Give More
What advice would Stephanie offer for other chapters who want to encourage a higher degree of civic engagement and community service?
“Look for projects that your chapter can lead and involve the greater campus community. Promoting empathy as part of your members’ leadership development is a critical life skill for building better communities and our greater world.”
Another way to help motivate team members is to take a moment to celebrate a success, and then move on to the next challenge. Analyze the group’s experience for any lessons or recommendations you can mine for the future and find new ways to serve. That’s why the UVA Wise team is already thinking about ways they can outperform themselves in 2023’s fall shoebox campaign.
“We’ve already discussed some new ideas for next year's campaign and are excited to increase our shoebox collection numbers for a greater impact on children worldwide.”
Both Members and Advisors Benefit from the NSLS
Stephanie’s participation in the NSLS as a Chapter Advisor goes back to 2011 at UVA Wise. Just as she hopes the chapter members have benefitted from their participation in the NSLS, her work with the chapter has given her a unique perspective on leadership and community service.
“I’ve been one of our Chapter Advisors since 2011. Since that time, I’ve enjoyed engaging with students as they grow and develop new skills. They gain these through the NSLS resources and events that are applicable in their classes, organizations, and teams.”
Learning more about how to inspire, manage, and lead teams of any kind is a crucial undertaking for future leaders. Higher education is a natural environment in which to develop and hone those skills. It’s not just the immediate experience that proves helpful; it’s also beneficial for life after graduation.
“It’s amazing to see student members step up to new opportunities and initiatives that they otherwise would not have thought about. These individual connections are very rewarding, and I especially love when our alumni continue to stay in touch with their own personal and professional accomplishments.”
The UVA Wise chapter didn’t let challenges slow down their commitment to service. Just like Stevenson University’s chapter, which built a strong community during the pandemic and was one of two NSLS Distinguished Chapters for 2022.