By. Helena Oda
While you stroll through Old Town Newhall toward the Jan Heidt MetroLink Station, you can look past the tall clock tower faces and find The Newhall Community Center, a distinctive building with red, yellow, and blue hues.
Despite the unfortunate need to close its doors to the public due to the COVID-19 virus, the colorful building has remained a vibrant place with new opportunities on the rise.
On March 24th, 2020 the City of Santa Clarita partnered with the non-profit organization Bridge to Home to repurpose the community center as a safe place for people to find temporary living quarters during the Pandemic.
As of October 2020, the Bridge to Home Shelter Manager, Nicole L. Feast-Williams has been partnering with the College of the Canyons Place and Engage the Vote Projects to ensure everyone at the Newhall Community Center is able to register to vote in this upcoming election. She has graciously allowed me and other COC students to volunteer and help people register.
Just as we were setting up a table, a cheerful fellow wearing his mask sat across from us with a six-foot distance and asked, “does your school prepare you for this work?” Puzzled, I asked, “what work?” After a while I understood the nature of his question. He wanted to know what would bring a person to volunteer during a pandemic to help people at a shelter vote?
I could see where his skepticism of volunteerism would stem from, especially in the middle of a Pandemic. I realized we could all permit ourselves to question all of our limitations or hardships this year darkly. A person’s volunteer work can be negatively associated with a self-serving cause, a student’s participation can be chalked up to school credit, and work can be incentivized by pay. Volunteering can sometimes be stigmatized as superficial help, but as people social distance, find things to distract themselves from concern, or develop new hobbies to stay sane, everyone’s efforts are essential to bringing a community together, whether it is in person or via Zoom.
Thinking about my response, I thought this isn’t “work”; this is volunteering…as though they had two completely different connotations. It didn’t sit right with me that I had concluded that one was better than the other. I fixated on the meaning of the word “work” and remembered an important saying imparted to me:
“the most important people in life are the people you are willing to do the work with.”
We often undervalue the work we do within our communities or personal lives. Although I was thinking all these thoughts, I did not have a catchy quip to express why I felt prepared to volunteer, but later came across this quote by a renown Australian poet:
“Life is mostly froth and bubble; Two things stand like stone: Kindness in another’s trouble, Courage in our own.” — Adam Lindsay Gordon
As Adam Lindsay Gordon suggested, when we courageously lend a hand (gloved, sanitized, or in gesture), we remind people that kindness has value and that their work matters too.
When people envision their ideal Nation or the changes they wish to see in their hometowns, this election will be an essential step in building up the Santa Clarita Valley.
After asking several voting questions and confirming he was already a registered voter, he politely thanked us for our time. Then with an air of confidence, he walked away, placing a list of local voting centers in his pocket. He has accomplished his civic duty for the day---in spite of all the hardships that lead him to this point in life, he has willfully participated in our democratic system. Leaving us to consider the privilege of voting and the significance of the places we choose to support in our community.
If you are also interested in volunteering or donating to Bridge to Home, please visit the website below to find out more:
Helena Oda is a second-year honors student at College of Canyons pursuing an associate degree in business administration with plans of transferring to a four-year University to obtain a bachelor’s in business economics. Her goals are to incorporate her passion for film and economics to better serve local communities and advocate for fundamental resources.