Ellen Barlow

Day of Service: Exercising the Widest Influence for Good!

It’s that time of year again to start planning for Kappa Alpha Theta’s annual International Day of Service, celebrated each year on or around our founder Bettie Locke’s birthday (October 19). In preparation, we want to help collegians and alumnae plan and execute their Day of Service activities to align with the Fraternity’s aim to exercise the widest influence for good; encourage continued, meaningful, and sustained community service work; and provide significant education and reflection around the work in which our members choose to participate.

What is Day of Service?

Theta launched Day of Service in 2009 as a way to take time out of our busy lives one day a year to honor our commitment to exercise the widest influence for good. It's the power of one multiplied by 200,000—the number of living, initiated members around the world.

So, what does service mean anyway, and how is it different than philanthropy?

Service is the act of volunteering to benefit a community with the knowledge that one will not receive payment. It’s a hands-on activity where one interacts with the organization being served. Service focuses on creating positive change in the community where both the server and the served learn from their interaction, and allows one to make a connection between herself, the skills she has to offer, and the needs of the community in which she is working. Philanthropy, on the other hand, is about giving money or goods through donations or fundraisers to benefit a cause. Goods here can include canned food, backpacks full of school supplies, or even life-saving blood. Service focuses on time volunteered, while philanthropy focuses on monetary fundraising or goods donation. Both are expressly important,: Without funding, organizations/causes cannot pay for their resources to help others; and without gifts of time and talent, organizations/causes often don’t have the capacity to provide the services needed to help others.

Why does this matter?

For Theta’s Day of Service, we encourage members to participate in meaningful community service, either direct or indirect. Direct service activities require personal contact with the people you are serving. These types of activities are generally the most rewarding as we, while helping others, receive immediate positive feedback. Examples include working with senior citizens or serving a meal at a community kitchen. Indirect experiences are just as important, and they’re easy to organize, don’t often require the amount of training that some direct service does, and involve volunteers working behind the scenes. Examples include painting a room at the agency, raking leaves, organizing donations, or preparing a mailing. Though these jobs might not seem glamorous, they are essential in maintaining a safe, welcoming, and effective organization. Your indirect service work may create more time for the organization’s staff to work with and on behalf of those they serve. When giving your time, remember to keep an open mind and be glad you can help.

What does Day of Service have to do with me as a Theta?

As Thetas, we are called to be leading women and work toward the Fraternity’s aim to exercise the widest influence for good.

In the coming weeks, this blog series will provide Day of Service event planning ideas, reflection on what it means to serve and how we can think about it differently than we have in the past, and all sorts of resources and information in between. But for now, simply reflect on your Theta membership and the Fraternity’s purpose, and commit to participating in a meaningful service activity on (or around) October 19, 2015. It’s going to be a great day to be a leading woman!