By Kaylee Woodruff
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Niagara Falls, New York, is home to one of the wonders of the world. It was once one of the honeymoon capitals of the world, but what happened?
Niagara Falls is now home to poverty and crime. According to Community Snapshot, 23,700 people live in or near poverty in the city.
With the poverty in Niagara Falls, there is a high population with mental health needs.
Pamela Dixon, assistant director of Heart Love & Soul, stresses that, “there are so many services in Niagara Falls that nobody should truly be on the streets and some of them its really just mental illness that causes that.”
If there are so many services in Niagara Falls, why are so many people on the street?
Dixon explains that people are simply not ready. “We have one gentleman that we’ve tried to work with for a very long time to get him into some housing and he’s just not ready.”
Poverty has now taken over this once-beautiful city and now the question is what can we change in the community?
Being a student at Niagara University for almost two years, I’ve learned and contributed to the Vincentian mission.
Niagara University’s mission statement states that, “As a Vincentian university, Niagara draws inspiration from St. Vincent de Paul, who organized his contemporaries to respond compassionately to people’s basic needs. Continuing this tradition, Niagara seeks to inspire its students to serve all members of society, especially the poor and oppressed, in local communities and in the larger world.”
Niagara University is huge on community service. NU IMPACT, which is the service learning office on campus, has taken a different approach to having college students complete service hours.
Brittany DePietro, institute/ IMPACT coordinator, explains “We have tried to take a different approach to community service by focusing less on the number of hours students spend doing service but also instead focusing on the outcomes.”
IMPACT’s goal for the students after they serve the community is knowing what they did and how it impacted them. Knowing how many people that they served and how did the service make a difference to the student. Also how does the service form the student’s future career?
Caitlyn Dyster, a sophomore at Niagara University, says that service means a lot to her: “To me, service means acts of kindness or giving that provide others with help, assistance, or support they need.”
Niagara University gives their students so many opportunities to give back to their community.
This holiday season, seeing the heartbreaking poverty in the city and knowing that Niagara University gives students the power to do anything, made me think twice. I wanted to give back to my community.
I came up with the idea of collecting water bottles and donating the money raised to people in need this holiday season.
I started with just asking friends and family to save their bottles for me, and then this project grew. I made a flyer and asked the mall customer service if they could help in any way. Every store in the mall received a flyer and a couple stores so far helped and saved bottles.
I then reached out to IMPACT and they offered to be a drop-off location. This project has been successful so far, but then I got thinking again. How could I turn this project into something bigger?
Niagara University again is all about service and giving back to the community, so possibly starting a service club could be successful.
The service club would be called The Be Kind Service Club. This name is important because being kind needs to be seen more in the world. Random acts of kindness will fill the campus. These acts could be placing motivational sayings around campus.
This could be beneficial because students who do not have a lot of friends might feel that they’re alone. If they see these motivational sayings around campus, that could be a push for them to keep going.
The main fundraising event will be collecting bottles and donating the money to a different place in need each year.
The community service that would be happening in the club would be picking a food pantry in the heart of the city.
Heart, Love & Soul is a nonprofit organization that’s been around for over 35 years. It started out at a local church that noticed people in their congregation didn’t have enough food and they themselves started a food pantry.
Heart, Love & Soul is more than just a food pantry. They have a nurse on site if anyone needs anything, a caseworker who helps with social services, and a program coordinator who sets up various different things, etc.
Volunteering here would be beneficial to student development, because it will show students really how many people are in poverty and that something needs to be addressed.
Dyster says, “I think the club is definitely a good idea for the campus. Spreading kindness and engaging in volunteer work should never have a limit.”
I am hoping to start the process of starting this club after Christmas break. This would be beneficial because it is taking Niagara’s mission statement and putting it into action. That is the true power of Niagara.