Carmen Burgess knows how parents worry. She’s a mom herself and when her daughter started school at Clemson, Carmen connected with the school’s parents’ and family community on Facebook. Carmen, a giver with a lifetime of service in her DNA, realized that kids were lonely, sick, anxious, overwhelmed. And with families farflung, those feelings can be exacerbated. Which is why she took it upon herself to be the mom on the ready, with emotional service dogs to calm and spark conversations on campus, and a laundry list of “mom” services to provide out of kindness and empathy. From taking students to the Urgent Care or dentist, driving them to the airport so they get home for holidays, checking on them when they are sick and just listening, being there, Carmen is making a difference every day.
Carmen is committed to making a difference in her community and she is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honorees. Points of Light spoke with her about her commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I come from a family of servants. My mother was a nurse and my father was a Naval officer. Though we didn’t grow up with an overabundance and we moved around a lot, we were always involved in community as a family. When I became a nurse and had my own family, I wanted to instill those values in my children to honor my parents, who showed us that by doing for others we got back 100 percent in self-confidence and self-worth.
Describe your volunteer role.
It’s not an ‘official’ volunteer position. When my daughter started at Clemson I joined the school’s parents’ Facebook page which connects families in and out of state. I soon realized that being sick or feeling alone when your family is far away is tough on these kids. So I started visiting campus with my two dogs to interact with the students. I now get calls to come in when a student is having a bad day. I began posting to parents to give them a sense of connection. I have found that with all the flu, mono and strep that is rampant this year, at times students can’t get out of their rooms and get the care they need. I make up ‘get well bags’ with items they might need during recovery. I keep them on hand and I encourage parents and families to let me know so I can deliver them. The personal connection and the relief for parents can mean the world of difference. I have taken supplies to students on and off campus, taken students to Urgent Care, the ER, dentist, picked up medications and just gone by to check on students who are sick without family close by.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
It’s a combination of parents feeling relief that someone (a mom) is checking on their student and the hundreds of comments by students and families that they are inspired by ‘random kindness’ from a stranger. For me, when a parent, a student or a random person tells me that they will pay my kindness forward, that is the most rewarding part of all.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I have learned that personal fulfillment comes from giving not receiving. And that our future generation is more service oriented than they are given credit for. I have learned that this country is full of more people with kind, generous hearts than not.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I am excited for flu season to be over! While sitting in the ER waiting room, a doctor told me there were 1008 cases of flu just in that hospital alone the previous week. I am looking forward to a new Freshmen class at Clemson in the fall of 2019 and their families who will become part of this fabulous community.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Not only does giving back cause a cyclical effect, it inspires others and ‘paying it forward’ becomes an action not just a saying. It is also a self-fulfilling action. By doing for others, people have a sense of worth within themselves that they did not know they were capable of. I had a student recently asked me why I did what I did for people and I explained it to which he said “wow, you’re just putting random goodness into the world, that’s cool”. I honestly believe he will now put more of his own random goodness into the world.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I want others to realize that just by reaching out to one person, by doing one random act of kindness every day you will inspire others to do the same. We, as a society, are exposed to so much stress and less than desirable news in our lives, creating a community of people who care for one another and inspire one another can change everything.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Carmen? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.