Dedicated to Giving Back
With the holiday season in full swing, the spirit of giving is in the air, and many make it their mission to support the community around them. For some, it’s donating toys or gifts, volunteering at a local shelter, or providing canned items for a food pantry.
While many don’t, or simply can’t, continue these efforts past the holidays, giving back doesn’t stop after December for Lauri Rawls, Endicott’s Director of Community Service.
Rawls is busier than ever. As the advisor for the Rotaract Service Club, she oversaw several toy drives this season including Wonderfund, a nonprofit that serves children engaged with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. The Community Service Office also sponsored Winter Wishes, a pop-up gift store in upper Callahan where students could support several families by purchasing new clothes, games, and toys.
“Every little bit counts, whether monetary or giving some time to someone who needs a little help, especially this time of year,” said Rawls.
Rawls also put a letter-writing station outside of her office in partnership with the campus Wishmakers Club and invited the Endicott community to write letters to Santa. For every letter received, Macy’s will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish® Foundation to fulfill the wishes of children with a critical illness.
As much as Rawls has shaped the Community Service Office, her journey to Endicott had some interesting twists. Before joining the College, Rawls worked part-time as an assistant women’s basketball coach at UMass Boston, but when the head coach there took a new coaching role at Endicott, she asked Rawls to join her. Then, a resident director position opened and Rawls applied and accepted the role.
For more than 10 years, Rawls worked in various Residence Life roles; while living on campus, Rawls and her husband welcomed two children. When her family was ready to move off campus, she decided to switch roles again. This time, with the Community Service Office.
“I am the type of person that has always loved to give back to the community, so when this opportunity presented itself, I knew it was a job I could put my passion into,” she said.
Since then, Rawls has transformed the Community Service Office. In those early years, Rawls realized it was important to give students a variety of opportunities across various disciplines at several different times, days of the week, and levels of commitment.
Over the years, the number of community service offerings has both increased and diversified. Many occur right here on campus while others take place in different cities and towns across the North Shore. As a result, Rawls has formed strong connections with local nonprofits like Northeast Arc and Beverly Bootstraps.
“It’s been awesome getting to know them, getting to see the great things they do for our community, and learning daily,” said Rawls.
She also maintains strong connections with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and the Habitat for Humanity club. But the real reward of her efforts is seeing students open their minds and hearts and expand their worldviews.
“We want a community of people who care about other people, and want to help out, not just on this college campus but in general,” said Rawls.
She is always trying to implement new and fresh ideas and recently created Discovery Fridays, in which students can visit and learn about a local nonprofit. The group goes out for dinner afterward, discussing service and learning about each other.
Rawls still feels like a teacher, however, just outside the classroom. The mentoring, leading-by- example kind. When you volunteer, you’re volunteering next to a wide variety of people from all backgrounds, said Rawls.
“Students are learning life skills, learning how to get along with other people, to compromise, to be flexible, to be open, to live with others that aren’t just like them, diversity, equity, inclusion, all the things we talk and work to instill on the daily,” said Rawls.
Even with everything she does to help others, Rawls remains humble.
“I feel good, but I don’t take any credit, besides a pencil to paper and little groundwork,” she said. “It’s the students that are going volunteering or not. Yes, I’m there with them sometimes. But the credit goes to our entire community.”
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