service learning project report by Jason falkner

Over the last several months Jason Falkner has worked with us to put together a community service project as part of his college curriculum at Bellevue University. Jason needed one more course to complete his degree and had asked to work with us. A former local resident, Jason serves in the military and was anxious to complete this project as he was to be transferred (and has been) to a new assignment in Utah.

He will describe the work he has done and as you read his thesis please note the development of his interest in our ( and his) local history. It is a truly amazing transformation and we would have been so happy to see him continue as a member of the Tabernacle Historical Society.

Here is Jason’s story – a bit long but a great read.

Service Learning Project Report

Kirkpatrick Signature Series

Jason D. Falkner

June – July 2021

Tabernacle Historical Society

Tabernacle, New Jersey

Entry 1: Selection of the Service Learning Project

I have chosen to volunteer with the Tabernacle Historical Society, which is a small group of citizens in my local township that focus on preserving historical assets and artifacts that are relevant to the township’s history. Although I tried finding a soccer team to help coach or assist, I was unable to find one that responded back in time for this course and the SLP. Although I wasn’t able to help coach, I’m excited to contribute to the local historical society because I have a big interest in history (my previous degree path was for a U.S. History degree) and I find it fascinating.

The Tabernacle Historical Society (THS) was established in February of 1975 and was highly active in the 1970s through the early 2000s (THS, 2021). Although its membership and engagement has dropped over the past decade, they still need help maintaining historical artifacts and making progress on their projects. I find value in contributing to the efforts of the THS because I believe that they have a great mission set in preserving the township’s rich history and telling the story of how we got to where we are today. Studying history helps us understand and grapple with complex questions and dilemmas by examining how the past has shaped the present (UW-Madison, 2021) I believe that if we respect and do our best to understand our history, we can both appreciate our township and respect each other as citizens. I believe contributing to the township in this manner helps build reverence and respect for the community, and the more we are involved with the community the more likely we are to not litter, dump trash, or leave buildings and property in disrepair.

I got in contact with the head of the THS and met with him during the week, and he provided me a list of tasks that I could help out with to benefit the organization. The list included the following tasks that would be helpful for the organization:

  • Paint stairway and ceiling in one of the original buildings in the township dating back to the early 1800s
  • Refurbish veteran grave sites and assist with the veteran’s monument project
  • Locate a number of graves and annotate the date of birth/death, military service branch, and conflict they were involved in
  • Read through a few years’ worth of township meeting minutes to search for instances of donations and document them
  • Scan a number of township meeting minute documentation dating back to the 1970s
  • Repair a local old schoolhouse from the late 1800s
  • Search through meeting minutes for any mention of a local police department starting in the mid-1900s to document when it was established and who was participating
  • Upload various photos to ancestry.com

I introduced myself at the start of the discussion and told him the purpose of my volunteer effort, and he seemed very grateful that I was there to assist them, as the THS has not has strong membership in the last 15-20 years and there’s too much work for the few members that are available. He took me through the old house that I would be working on painting and it was so interesting to realize that even in the small township of Tabernacle, NJ, there was clearly a rich history of how the township came to be what it is today. We discussed the tasks at the kitchen table inside the house and I took some notes, and told him I would be in touch with him over the next several weeks as I planned to work the projects he had asked of me.

References

Tabernacle Historical Society, (2021), https://tabernaclehistoricalsociety.org/, accessed 24 Jul 21

University of Wisconsin-Madison, (2021), Why Should You Study History?, https://history.wisc.edu/undergraduate-program/history-careers/why-history/, accessed 24 Jul 21

Entry 2: Service Learning Project Objectives

My Service Learning Project relates to Engaged Citizenship and Civic Engagement in a Republic. First, being an engaged citizen means to actively be engaged with your community and educating ourselves in politics, and civic engagement in a republic means to participate in civic life. Another description of engaged citizenship is the “notion of being a member of a body, a participant in and contributor to community” (Jilani, 2019). These are two valuable principles that help citizens grow closer to the functioning of their government and community, including their fellow neighbors and citizens. It has also been argued that Informed and engaged citizens are essential to the creation of a civil and sustainable

society (University of Florida, 2021).

The THS is a nonprofit activity that is overseen by the township, and although it doesn’t appear to be an official part of the township government, I am aware that the township frequently provides them with funding. Although I wouldn’t consider myself being engaged with the township government, I am engaged with an organization that has value to the township government as well as the citizens. I think this is a great way to get my foot in the door if I were to pursue getting involved with the township government in a higher level of civic engagement. Getting to know some of the people who at least know the town’s history and know some of the people of the township government would be a great way to be further involved in the local political scene. Additionally, knowing the history of the township would be crucial if I were to try and get involved politically because I’m sure there is a rich history of the township and knowledge of those events would be helpful in explaining why things are the way they are today, which can also ultimately help me better serve the township and its citizens.

Although unfortunately due to my upcoming move to Utah, I will not be able to get further involved in the civic arena of the township, but I am sure I will learn valuable lessons into how local government works along with the history of the township I currently live in. Being able to contribute to the THS through volunteering is going to be a great experience that will be enriching on multiple levels, and knowing I’m contributing to a worthy cause is the cherry on top. I think this will also open another door for me in terms of future volunteer opportunities, because I will gain valuable experience working with this organization and can picture myself continuing to be engaged in future towns that I may be living in where I can contribute to their rich histories and potentially their civic arenas as possible. Being able to gain differing perspectives from this type of work can be valuable in understanding how small-town civics work, and if I ever chose to run for local office the experience would be extremely valuable.

References

Jilani, Z., (2019), What Does it Mean to be an Engaged Citizen?, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_does_it_mean_to_be_an_engaged_citizen, accessed 12 Jun 21

University of Florida, (2021), The Importance of Engaged Citizenship,

https://fora.aa.ufl.edu/docs/108/August2012/Citizenship%203-22-11.pdf, accessed 12 Jun 21

Entry 3:  Tabernacle Cemetery (19 June 21)

Today I tackled my first project working with the THS. I chose to try and locate a number of graves on a list my point of contact had given me, which consisted of about 180 different names. The task at hand was to visit the local graveyard, which had been established in the early 1900s, and try to find the graves of the people on the list. Once I found the name, I was to write down their lifespan, whether or not they served in the military, and if they did which branch they served in and which conflict they fought in. It seemed like an interesting task because as an active duty Airman, it’s always interesting to learn about people who have served before I did in conflicts I’ve only read about in books. It makes me wonder what the person was like, what they did in the conflict, what their day-to-day life was like and how it differs from mine in this day and age.

I went to the cemetery around 1215 and began my search. I had an excel document printed out with the names, and I began searching row by row to try and find the people on the list. Although the cemetery isn’t too big, I ended up going through it twice in an attempt to locate the names and information as requested. Although I thought I would find most of them, I only managed to find about 30 names. Although I was disappointed, I didn’t find many more, I do plan to go back and revisit the cemetery with someone else to help me go through each and every headstone and to make sure I haven’t missed any.

After I finished up at the cemetery, I decided to go down the street to the township cemetery, which had graves dating back to the early 1800s in it. Although I was told none of the names would be found in the township cemetery, I actually found two names from my list and it felt good to uncover those two as well. One of the most interesting parts about this experience was realizing what a rich history a small township in southern New Jersey had. I also learned today that there are several streets in the township that are named after different people, and realizing this made me want to do further research into these people. For instance, there is a street in town named Patty Bowker Road, and I found a multitude of headstones with the last name Bowker when I went through both of the cemeteries. I also live very close to Prickett’s Mill Park, and found a number of headstones with the last name Prickett in the cemeteries. I called it a day from there and headed home around 1530.

Realizing some of the “big names” in the community has grown my appreciation for the town’s history, and has made me wish to seek further engagement. This experience has helped me understand my ties to the community and my responsibilities within it (Bosin). Wanting to be involved in the community can be an outlook that I can pass on to my neighbors and fellow citizens, which would benefit the community and would greatly enhance civic engagement. If we have more engaged citizens, we will have a better chance at making the civic changes we wish to make, because if we want to create change, it is important to harness the energy of people who want to do things (Knight, 2017)

This experience has been very interesting and it was exciting to learn about the history of the township, as well as pique my interest in some of the local history. I have a much better appreciation of the township I live in as well as the people who worked so hard in the past to make it what it is today!

References

Bosin, S. (date unknown). Civic Virtue, https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/civic-virtue, accessed 19 Jun 21

Knight, B. (2017). What Makes a Good Society?, https://www.newstatesman.com/sites/default/files/combined_executive_summary.pdf, accessed 19 Jun 21

Entry 4: The Pepper House (26 June 21)

Today I tackled one of the tasks I had been given and painted the interior of the Knight-Pepper House, one of the oldest homesteads in Tabernacle. It was built in 1860, 41 years before Tabernacle was established as a township, and was built by Gilbert Knight who was a blacksmith (Tabernacle Township, 2019).

I spent a total of 7 hours painting the house, and sanded, tapes, and painted an entire room along with quite a bit of molding and trim on the second floor. It was actually a good day, as I spent it alone in the house (after a brief meeting with my THS contact) listening to music as I worked away on the painting. I was listening to a folk punk band called Days N Daze, who play their music with acoustic guitars, mandolins, a gut bucket, washboard, and a trumpet. They sing about life struggles and the working class, and the music made me wonder about the previous residents of the house and what their lives were like in the 1860s and early 1900s. What struggles were they facing? What were the political struggles of the time that impacted those families in particular? How did they deal with the world as it was when they were living in the house 160 years ago? Were they involved in the public forum and engaged in their community?

One thing I enjoy about history is considering what life would’ve been like in a previous era. Before I transferred to Bellevue University, I was studying for a history degree and had taken a number of classes that revolved around different periods of time. My time with Bellevue has widened my perspective to not only consider what day to day life may have been like in certain time periods of history, but how did the then-current community and national policies of the nation impact the people of the time. I imagine in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the township of Tabernacle that people were probably much more involved in the community than they are in the year 2021. Not only was the township considerably smaller in terms of area and population, but the policies and environment of the township must have been much more critical to their everyday life than it might be today.

This weekend’s volunteer work, paired with last week’s volunteer work, has cemented the fact that the township I currently call home has a rich history dating back centuries. As I’m originally from California, where it was only established in 1849 and most of the historical sites are only from the early to mid-1900s, I find it intriguing to realize the lengthy history that this township has to offer. Not only does this interest me on a personal level, but as a citizen it makes me want to do my best to take care of the township to the extent I’m able and to spread the word about the history that likely few other residents know about. Hopefully sharing the history of our township will compel other citizens to realize and appreciate the history around us, and take another step toward becoming engaged citizens who genuinely care about their neighbors and the township in general.

I’ve also realized this weekend that the THS relates its work to finding out the truth, which is something we’ve studied in this course. The THS continually works toward resolving a disputed question and reaching agreement about the answer to it (Adler, 2017). Although many questions are asked within the organizations in regard to the town’s history, their quest for the truth from the past is the ultimate destination.

THS Website with Photos of the Knight-Pepper House

Knight-Pepper House Tour

References

Adler, J. (1997). Six Great Ideas, http://content.bellevue.edu/cas/la/400-410-420/id/kss/the-pursuit-of-truth.pdf, accessed 26 Jun 21

Tabernacle Township, 2019, The Pepper-Knight House (Historical Building), https://www.townshipoftabernacle-nj.gov/news_detail_T2_R9.php, accessed 26 Jun 21

Entry 5: Pepper House, Part 2 (3 July 21)

Today I continued to work at the Pepper House and painted some more trim and walls. I brought my music with me and was by myself in the house and was listening to one of my favorite punk rock bands NOFX. I noticed that the prior week’s painting work and today’s continuation of the work was a great time to be by myself, listen to music, and be a productive member of the community, and although I put in some long hours over the past few weeks I feel like it’s been a great experience.

NOFX is a band that is, like most any other punk bands, very outspoken about how they view the world, and they sing about a number of social topics and societal issues. One of my favorite songs of theirs is called The Idiots are Taking Over, and I listened to it a few times yesterday and really thought about the words and their meaning, which have relevance in this class. I also reflected on some of the values of a number of punk bands and the history of punk rock, and I began to think about how their ideologies and philosophies come out in their music. An element of the punk subculture is resistance to authority and capitalism, and some people believe in some form of anarchy (in the form of no government, not so much just chaos) and try to realize complex political philosophies in their daily lives (Dunn, 2015).

While I was listening to music and working, I began to think about my own philosophy and worldview and how I came to hold the views that I hold. I’ve changed quite a bit in the last 10 years and am a very different person than I was immediately after I graduated high school, when I was heavily influenced by my dad. Since then, I’ve lived overseas, been deployed, been divorced and re-married, had a child, and so much more that has changed my worldview and philosophy. I feel grateful to have had those experiences and that I have had a growth mindset through them which has made many life lessons out of the good and the bad. Having a growth mindset is important because “the way an individual frames a situation drives subsequent appraisals, perceptions, and actions—such that those with a growth mindset view setbacks as opportunities to grow and adapt” (Thompson, 2020). It seems like a lot of people in the punk community have a growth mindset as well, and choose to ascertain insight from people who have differing opinions in order to get to the truth. Although a lot of people share the same opinions and viewpoints, having the right mindset to be open to learning more about the world in an effort to seek (and preach) the truth is an example of responsible citizenship in its own right. Being able to set aside your views and opinions to consider another point of view is not easy, but is results in a deeper understanding and appreciation for the world.

References

Dunn, K. (2015). Global Punk : Resistance and Rebellion in Everyday Life. Bloomsbury Academic.

Thompson, B. (2020). Profiling the Successes and Failures of Prominent Leaders: A Primer for Developing a Growth Mindset and Enacting Job Crafting. Business Education Innovation Journal, 12(2), 57–61

Entry 6: THS Meeting Minutes (4 July 21)

Today I embarked on some more volunteering, and began working another two tasks that Rick had given me to complete. These two tasks are able to be done from home and it’s mostly done online. The first task is to go through about 30 years of THS meeting minutes to find and document instances of people donating artifacts to the organization. The second task is to go through ancestry.com and search through the 400+ matches that have a connection to the township in some way, and save previous citizens’ photos and any information accompanying them. The purpose behind these tasks is to ensure the organization has records of artifacts so they can catalog them and give proper credit to those that donated, as well as to enrich the database of former Tabernacle residents that have helped build the town into what it is today.

Before I started my degree in Management with Bellevue, I was working toward a history degree because I have a lot of interest in history. Although I’ve always felt history is important, I think that working with the THS has enhanced my understanding as to why history is important, rather than just being interested in the stories of the past. Local history is important, as “individuals and groups alike, experience produces a self-image and a basis for deciding how to behave, manage problems, and plan ahead” (Kyvig & Marty, 2010). Looking to the past to analyze how and why decisions were made and how they impacted people throughout history and into the present is a critical function of learning and understanding history, especially of the place we call home.

Although most children are taught about history in school, it seems the two major areas of study are world and U.S. history and not so much history about their respective towns, cities, and states (Texas aside). Should students also be taught local history in school? I would argue that it would be beneficial for students to learn about their city and state because it gives them some context into why things are they way they are where they live, and studying local history combines the benefits of authenticity and active engagement (Clarke & Lee, 2004). By working on these tasks, I have learned quite a bit about my town’s history and have learned how important it is to understand the local history. On top of having context for the current environment in the town, it’s also enlightened me through learning about what people we like, how they acted, and what they prioritized almost two centuries ago.

Although I will likely be working on these projects on and off throughout the week, I’ve started both of them and will send all of my documentation to Rick once it’s complete. I’ve also had the thought of providing him and the THS with my SLP Report so they can have an idea how this volunteer work has impacted me and what I’ve taken away from the experience. I think it would be good for them to see that there are people in the community who take interest in history and see how it benefits us as a society.

References

Clarke, W. G., & Lee, J. K. (2004). The Promise of Digital History in the Teaching of Local History. Clearing House, 78(2), 84–87. https://doi-org.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/10.3200/TCHS.78.2.84-87

Kyvig, D. E., & Marty, M. A. (2010). Nearby History : Exploring the Past Around You: Vol. 3rd ed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Entry 7: Meeting Minutes, Part 2 (11 July 21)

Today I worked on the project that entailed going through old THS meeting minutes dating back to 1975 and searching the minutes for instances of non-case donations. After 3 hours of research, I made it to the year 1990 and had found 31 instances of non-cash donations to the organizations, and although I’m only about 1/3 of the way through the task it’s been very interesting so far.

A lot of the items that were donated were older artifacts from the early 1900s, and it was interesting to see how the THS came to be in possession of a number of the items they still have to this day. As I read through the notes, I found myself getting familiar with some of the names of the council members and frequent visitors, and I felt as though I came to know some of them through reading the meeting minutes. I read about some of the members being sick and in the hospital, moving out of the area, and unfortunately at least one of the former council members, to include the founding president, pass away through the meeting minutes. I also learned more about the township and some of its history, including the fact that one of the local farmers’ markets (Russo’s) was owned by the mayor of the township in the mid-late 1970s.

Another interesting article came from the notes of the meeting in the late 1970s, wherein the council came to a resolution to speak out to the township against “adult entertainment businesses” like book stores, massage parlors, x-rated movies, model parlors, live sex acts, and abortion clinics. The reason the council was against these types of venues was because they saw the township as a family-centered community, and these sorts of establishments would go against the family-friendly environment they were fighting to maintain in the area. Although eventually the township authorized some adult entertainment businesses to operate, they must do so within strict guidelines and receive the proper permits from the township for consideration prior to operating (Tabernacle Municipal Code, 2021).

I realized through the notes that the early THS’ council had a penchant for quilt making, as it was a great way to make extra money back around the time was founded. The first quilt knitted by the early THS members was eventually put on display at the Smithsonian Museum for 3 years in the early 1980s, although they did make a few more in the early years of the organization’s existence (Tabernacle Historical Society, 2019).

An interesting pattern was that for the first 15 years (and probably longer, I’ll find out this week!) every one of the meetings begun with a prayer and saluting the flag, and ended with refreshments. There seems to be a high sense of piety and patriotism in the history of the organization, and it’s interesting to see how the citizens lives 40+ years ago and that they seem to have held strong to their systems of belief through the years. I’ll be finishing up the meeting minutes within the next week and am looking forward to learning more about the organization and the township.

Meeting Minutes from the first THS meeting:

References

Tabernacle Historical Society (2019), Minutes of Society Meetings, https://tabernaclehistoricalsociety.org/minutes-of-society-meetings/, accessed 11 Jul 21

Tabernacle Municipal Code (2021), Section 4-6.3, https://ecode360.com/36331746?highlight=adult,adult%20entertainment&searchId=12448515487903811#36331746, accessed 11 Jul 21

Entry 8: Meeting Minutes Complete & Reflections (13 July 21)

Today I was able to complete the meeting minutes task while I had movers packing things up in my house. It was a bit of a hectic day with all the commotion in the house, but I got through the remaining 2/3 of the meeting minutes starting around the year 1990 through 2015. I found this task surprisingly enjoyable, and again found myself noticing details in the meeting minutes that made me feel like I knew some of the main people involved with the organization through the years. I also discovered through the minutes that a few more members had passed away, totaling about 10 people related to the organization that had passed since its founding in 1975.

Although it was a little sad to see some of the members pass away through the organization’s 35 years of meeting minutes, I also took mental note of how much these people were contributing to their community and their sense of engaged citizenship. Although nobody likely came out and said, “I’m an engaged citizen and am willing to put effort into the betterment of our community,” I assume that people were involved with the organization for those reasons through their actions and commitment to preserving the township’s history. Some of the key events the organization led and contributed to through the years were several chicken barbecues, the Bread and Cheese Run, which is named after a local creek and an annual 2-4 mile run for the community, scholarships for graduating seniors for the local high school, and the local annual strawberry festival. Engaged citizenship can usefully distinguish between political and civil participation (Reich, 2005), and the members did both to contribute to preserving the history of the township, as well as contributing to the overall wellness of the community they lived in through a few political engagements as well.

While reading through the meeting minutes, I had also come to the discovery that my primary point of contact for the THS, Mr. Rick Franzen, was in fact a former mayor of the township. This was not something he had revealed to me as our working relationship was completely in relation to the historical society, but it was an interesting discovery and showed me that Rick was all-around engaged in the township in multiple aspects. Elected officials are the leading proponents of citizen involvement (Yang & Callahan, 2007), and Rick’s involvement in the community as a mayor and eventually as a leader within the historical society shows that he is and has been a leader within the community. I would venture to think that Rick’s engagement and contributions to the township has brought other fellow citizens to become engaged, and his involvement has had a positive impact on the community by bringing people together to realize the importance of community involvement.

This has been an interesting task to complete, and it was a pleasure to read through decades of historical society meeting minutes to witness the multiple instances of engagement and willingness for community members to promote a positive community environment. The names of the former THS members and the history lessons I have learned about the township will remain with me and serve as an example for why engaged citizenship truly matters. People have put their time, effort, money, and heart into an organization which serves to preserve the local history and promote the values that represent the best aspects of being part of a small community.

References

Reich Robert. (2005). Service Learning and Multiple Models of Engaged Citizenship. The Journal of Education, 186(1), 23–27.

Yang, K., & Callahan, K. (2007). Citizen Involvement Efforts and Bureaucratic Responsiveness: Participatory Values, Stakeholder Pressures, and Administrative Practicality. Public Administration Review, 67(2), 249–264. https://doi-org.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2007.00711.x

Entry 9: Photos from Ancestry.com (24 July 21)

This weekend I completed the final project I had been given by Mr. Franzen, which was to go through the Ancestry.com account to save and document all the photos that had relation to the Pepper House and the township in general. There were 20 pages of photos which came out to about 300 of them, which were saved, documented, and wrapped up in a spreadsheet that I would give to Mr. Franzen later in the coming week. Although this task wasn’t as mentally stimulating as some of the other assignments were, it was still interesting to see photos of people from the 1800s and early 1900s and relate them to the township by their names and the names of local roads and businesses.

Every one of the photos was uploaded by someone who either personally knew or knew of the individuals, and I found it interesting that people did this on their own free will to contribute to other people getting to know their personal history through Ancestry.com. I would argue that the simple action of uploading photos from so long ago could be considered a small act of civic engagement, since it contributes to assisting others find out their history, or in this case, the township’s history. Although we are only working with photos at this point, the THS has several spoken and transcribed stories that help tell the tale of the township. Keeping quality photographs makes genealogy and ancestry far simpler (Photoancestry, 2017), and learning to understand what you are looking at in the context of the photo is just as important to realizing its significance. Understanding the composition of the image, its historical context, and theoretical issues related to representation can help further understand the image and why it is important (Pegler-Gordon, 2006), and can provide interesting clues to the history behind the photograph.

As I looked at the hundreds of photos of people and events that helped build my township, I again realized what a rich history such a small town has. It’s made me realize that pretty much every town and section of the globe likely has a rich history and a story to how it became what it is today, and these histories are not merely interesting stories to experience but can help explain how things are the way they are today. This experience has given me perspective and a time to reflect on history and where it stands in our world today, from the small town to the entire world, we have quite a bit to learn about in order to completely understand where we are today, how we got here, and how our actions fit into the development of our communities. By being engaged citizenships and learning the history around us, we can have better understanding of the issues we face in our communities and can better realize how we can make improvements for the betterment of our respective communities around the world.

I would like to thank Mr. Franzen and the Tabernacle Historical Society for allowing me to assist them and for the fantastic learning and reflection opportunity this project has been for me. I would also like to state my appreciation for the Tabernacle Historical Society for doing what they have done for the last 46 years and that I hope they know that even if their number of members and events varies from year to year, they are doing an extremely important job by preserving the history of Tabernacle Township so we can better understand where we came from, and how we can proceed into the future.

References

Pegler-Gordon, A., (2006), Historians.org, Seeing Images in History, https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/february-2006/seeing-images-in-history, accessed 24 Jul 21

Photoancestry.com (2017), Importance of Preserving Old Photos, https://www.photoancestry.com/importance-preserving-old-photos.html, accessed 24 Jul 21

Entry 10: “Conclusions”

Part 1:  Program Feedback

  1. The Service Learning Project helped me better understand the role that engaged citizenship has in affecting positive change in American society.” 

Rating: 10

  • I was initially reluctant to participate in the Service Learning Project assignment.

Rating: 1

  • Overall, I found the Service Learning Project assignment was a rewarding experience. 

Rating: 10

Part 2:  Project Summary

The Service Learning Project helped me better understand the principle of engaged citizenship, as I had become engaged with a local organization of volunteers dedicated to preserving the history of the township. Being involved and contributing to their objectives helped me understand that at the end of the day, it’s people who are our most important asset when striving to become involved in our community. People are behind the efforts and are the ones making it happen, and we need people to continue the work that those before us have done. I was not reluctant to participate in the SLP because we typically do volunteer work throughout the year in the Air Force and it’s used to document our performance on our annual performance reports. I’ve volunteered with several organizations over the last 14 years, so the only struggle was to find one that would respond to my request to participate. I found the SLP to be extremely rewarding because it gave me an opportunity to give back to my community, gain new perspective about the community and our history, and to learn about the history of the township I’ve lived in for the past few years. I spent approximately 27 hours assisting the organization over the course of about 6 weeks.

I certainly believe that engaged citizenship makes our nation stronger, because without people taking the time and effort to become engaged in the community, we all tend to live our lives and ignore those around us. When we contribute to something bigger than ourselves, we gain a greater sense of perspective and do things for the betterment of the community rather than solely focus on ourselves. If we have more engaged citizens, we will have a better chance at making the civic changes we wish to make, because if we want to create change, it is important to harness the energy of people who want to do things (Knight, 2017).

If we can get involved in our communities and learn to contribute to greater causes than ourselves, we can realize the importance that the people around us play in society and can lead to new perspective and knowledge of how others live their lives and their history. Civic virtue helps people understand their ties to the community and their responsibilities within it (Bosin, Date Unknown). If we can first realize that we have a responsibility to our community and the people within it, we can focus more on how we can make each other’s lives better and work toward a future where we can take care of each other rather than solely focus on ourselves and our own prosperity.

Working with the THS was a rewarding experience, and it gave me new perspectives on the history of the township, how the township takes care of its people, and the importance of citizens coming together to do good for the community. It doesn’t take one person doing all the heavy lifting, but it takes several committed citizens doing their small part to contribute to the activities that improve our communities. I’d like to think that after this class and likely after I retire from the Air Force, I will get involved with more historical societies and town-level organizations to further contribute to the communities I’ll be a part of.

References

Bosin, S. (date unknown). Civic Virtue, https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/civic-virtue, accessed 19 Jun 21

Knight, B. (2017). What Makes a Good Society?, https://www.newstatesman.com/sites/default/files/combined_executive_summary.pdf, accessed 19 Jun 21