When children were asked, “What is Philanthropy?” the majority responded that it is a disease, and that community service is something that is given to bad people as a punishment. Unlike previous generations, children are not being taught the lesson of giving to others. Unwittingly, we are creating a future generation of leaders void of this concept¼until now.
The Golden Rule Foundation’s (GRF) mission is “to inspire children to give to others” and does so by providing a hands-on, Service-Learning program for elementary-aged children. Last year alone, GRF spearheaded 92 service-learning projects at 44 elementary schools across Central Florida. As a result, more than 3,000 children had the opportunity to reach out and help others while simultaneously understanding the role they are capable of playing in their own communities.
GRF implements age-appropriate community service projects derived from the expressed needs of other area nonprofit organizations so that the true needs of the community are being met. The projects may arise from the needs of the sick, the underprivileged, and the disabled or involve beautification efforts. The Foundation provides all necessary funds, supplies and transportation needed for each project. All projects are completed as a class, during school hours, throughout the school year.
The GRF program helps children connect with their community in a myriad of meaningful ways. First, mentors assist children with their service projects. These adult volunteers serve as a visible reminder to the children that the volunteer efforts they are starting now can turn into a passion for volunteering when they grow older. Second, the children cultivate relationships with the adults in the charities they choose to support. Last, GRF projects strengthen family relationships. By being involved in a service project during the day, it opens up profound dialogue between the kids and their parents. Children involved in our program indicated that after doing a Golden Rule project, they took their own parents back to where they had visited, so that their parents could experience for themselves the joy, pride and bolstered self-esteem one receives when helping those less fortunate.
The GRF program supports the state mandate to teach Character Education and brings to life such concepts as “Giving,” “Caring,” “Respect” & “Citizenship.” The Golden Rule Foundation is the only agency in Central Florida offering the opportunity for children to be involved in service projects during school hours as part of their lesson plan. This ensures 100% of the students have the opportunity to participate and does not single out “latchkey” children who are not able to attend after school programs. Studies have shown that service learning has a dramatic effect on raising test scores, increasing attendance, and lowering the incidence of harmful behaviors such as drug use, teen pregnancy and teen suicide.