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Student Perspective: Every Difference Makes a Difference

The student chair of the United Way Campaign, Sabeen Safi, spoke at the Annual Meeting in January about the importance of being involved in one's community.

Good morning everyone! I’m honored and a little intimidated to have a chance to speak this morning as the Student Chair of the 2021 Community Impact Campaign.

I want to start with a bit of personal history about myself. My family moved to Chambersburg from New York City when I was just three weeks old. My parents came here because they did not want to raise a child in the city and were looking for a place that felt a little safer, a bit more supportive, and a place with a sense of community. And for the last seventeen years, Franklin County has been exactly that place for us.

What they probably couldn’t have foreseen (or maybe they did) was the value of lessons I have been exposed to in such a tight-knit place. Things like the value of active citizenship, the value of community, and the immense value of leadership and service opportunities.

One of those opportunities came across my path towards the end of my freshman year in high school. I was looking for volunteer opportunities and ended up emailing United Way for any work I could do, and I wasn’t hopeful since I was so young. I also did not have much idea of what United Way did. I just knew that some students went there to fulfill their service hours. Instead of being offered “work,” I was asked to come and see the Health Kids Day event at the YMCA being run by Amy Hicks. She took the time to explain United Way’s mission and purpose, and then, and only then, did United Way become something more than “just a place to fulfill service hours.”

At first, I began going to the office sparingly and then regularly over time. Now, if I only get to go once to the office, my entire week seems off. Some days, I cleaned out the basement; on others, I cold-called or stuffed endless mailers. Data entry and I were not good friends, but someone needed to do it. My most cherished task was choosing books to place in the box outside of our office for children to borrow. Knowing that someone might pick a book, I picked, enjoyed reading it, and maybe even wanted another one - - excited me. I think I enjoyed it the most because it connected me to another person. Although it was anonymous, it was a connection, and it was human.

My least favorite friend “Data Entry” taught me something I’d like to share with all of you today. That just like data entry, which is not glamorous, or selfie-worthy, it is a task of service that “someone needs to do.” Who is that someone? That someone is me and you and all of us. That is my ask of you all today. That all of us here go out and convince others that someone has to do something and we are all those very special someone’s. Please help United Way and I convince everyone that their smallest act of goodwill makes a difference.

Tell everyone you know to let go of the mindset of indifference and embrace one of incremental good. We can rally the world to get up off their seats, get away from the sidelines and get involved….because every act, no matter how small, adds up to create real, tangible change. (Take Action Today!)

I am living proof of how one random service event can open doors of opportunity. I am living proof that you don’t need to live in New York or Los Angeles to learn and lead. So I ask everyone again, encourage the people in your life to be active citizens, to add to the value of our service organizations, and to recognize the opportunities available to us right here in Franklin County. I’d be happy to connect with any younger people you may know who may be interested in working with the United Way.

And finally, I’d like to take a moment to thank a few people.

I want to thank my co-chair, Phillip Whitley. Phillip has been a pleasure to work with and always has the best ideas. I could not have imagined working with a better partner. Phillip’s creativity and passion for helping others thrive in Franklin County is something I admire and hope to mirror moving forward.

Next, I would like to thank Kim Crider and Clint Bolte. Going into the role, I was unsure what to expect or where to start. Even though I volunteered at United Way before becoming a campaign chair, I did not work on the campaign regularly or most likely did not realize I was. Through their mentorship and support early on, I was able to choose a direction I wanted to go in and do my best to define the role of a student chair. Their constant motivation throughout the campaign boosted my confidence and encouraged me to try new things.

And last but certainly not least, I would like to thank Amy Hicks, Amy Weibley, and Traci Spearly, who have mentored me in my service work for the past four years. I wouldn’t be the person I am without having their leadership in my life. I can’t imagine not volunteering with the United Way...EVER.

Thank you to you all and everyone else; thank you for honoring me with your time and hearing my side of the story.

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