Community Service Never Felt So Good

There are few things in this world that feel as good as giving back to one’s community – especially if it has a positive impact on young people. This past Friday, our agency executed its sixth annual Community Service Day, and it was my first time participating. Nearly 300 employees descended on Southwark School in South Philadelphia to completely transform the place from a dark and dingy 100-year-old stone block to a brightly-colored, inspiring space to learn in.

Southwark School
[Southwark School, AKA Orange Is The New Black]

Being the overzealous and eager person that I am, I signed up to lead a mural project for the day. Many hours of preparation went into drawing and designing a mural on paper, then going out to the school to outline the mural on one of the walls. I chose to do a floor to ceiling castle mural that would turn out to be far more labor intensive than I could have imagined. Despite my optimistic idealism, I was still a ball of nerves and anxiety going into the day: how would I know what to do? What if no one showed up to help? These questions and more were banging around my head, causing me to experience a primal fight or flight response… but ultimately, I decided to stay and fight.

Friday came around and I woke up at 6 a.m., rolled out of bed and drove to Southwark School. I started the day by putting some finishing touches on the mural drawing. By 7:30 a.m. my volunteers began to arrive and they wasted no time in helping me tape up the borders and lay down plastic to protect the school’s floors. By 8 a.m. I was turning people away – we had more volunteers than we could possibly use, and they were all incredible. Admittedly, I was a bit lost and overwhelmed, this being my first time and all, but everyone who came to help worked together to guide the project in the right direction. I have truly never felt more supported in all of my life. My fellow mural-painters were smiling, joking, working, and taking charge.

Before I knew it, the day was coming to a close. I stood back and admired the mural and WOW was it incredible. Since I had been the project lead, I barely picked up a paintbrush the whole day, and instead made it my mission to help direct and support my volunteers as much as possible – and they did an incredible job.

volunteers at work

finished castle mural
[The Finished Mural]

Once I left my mural station, I walked around the school in amazement. On my first trip to Southwark School, I had tears in my eyes due to the sad, decrepit state of the building. It was dark, gray, smelly, and generally depressing. I couldn’t fathom being a kid and having to come to this school every day with its peeling walls and decaying school yard. But in just 6 hours our agency turned the school into an exciting hub. I can’t imagine how thrilling it will be for those children to come back in the fall and walk into their school. I hope they take as much pride in it as my agency did in the entire Community Service Day process. It was truly one of the most inspirational and memorable experiences of my life.

Before Pictures:

before pic school yard
[Sad School Yard]

before pic hallway
[Haunting Hallway]

before pic lunch room[Lethargic Lunch Room]

After Pictures:

gamified mural
[“Gamified” Outdoor Mural]

CSD14 Outside
[Revamped School Yard]

CSD 14 Hallway
[Brightly Painted Hallway]

CSD 14 Mural
[Incredible Hallway Mural]

CSD 14 Garden 2
[Gorgeous New Garden]

– Sophia Moriarty, Associate Communications Manager