Community service has always been a value held close to my heart and at the core of my actions. I grew up in a family where service was not just a concept, but a behavior that I was expected to engage with whenever possible. I aspire to model my mother’s servant-hearted approach to life and passion for volunteering, but I had always prepared myself to accept the idea that this would likely have to happen outside of my career. This is my third summer with C&A Industries working as an intern and, now, an Intern Program Coordinator. In my time here, I’ve discovered that service doesn’t have to happen only on your own time if you find the right company. Fortunately, service is a significant part of C&A’s company culture.
Earlier this month, C&A’s 20 interns spent the afternoon serving together at the Open Door Mission. A privately funded Gospel Rescue Mission founded in 1954, the Open Door Mission is committed to helping individuals and families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Although much of the staff was away delivering bottled water to those unable to travel to the organization’s campus on this especially hot afternoon, we were welcomed generously and put to work in the Timberlake Outreach Center.
We began the afternoon with a tour of the organization’s six building campus, including the Lydia House, where we stopped in a family’s apartment, and the Garland Thompson Men’s Center, where over 2,000 hot meals are served every day. We learned that every building and program at the Open Door Mission has an intentional process for how it serves people, and the Timberlake Outreach Center is no different. This store serves families in need by providing free products that have been donated by individuals in the community in an effort to save money and, in turn, prevent homelessness.
At the Timberlake Outreach Center, we split into small groups to impact every area of the store; we shelved and organized donated home goods, toys, clothes, and bread as families shopped. The full experience of touring the facilities and asking questions before engaging in our hands-on volunteer experience at the store made the afternoon even more impactful. Regardless of whether some interns had been volunteering at the Open Door Mission for years or had never seen a shelter, everyone was able to take away a valuable lesson.
This event reinforced the gratitude I have for all aspects of my life, including the opportunity to work for a company that supports its employees taking time to serve the community. Most of us interns won’t be here when the company participates in its annual holiday service program, AurElves, or other year-round giving initiatives that bring C&A Industries closer to the community, so investing in the resources that allow us to volunteer during our summer here is meaningful. By dedicating time to volunteer at the Open Door Mission, C&A’s internship program gave me an opportunity to learn outside of the office and instill confidence in my belief that a career and community service do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Libby Stevenson is a senior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln majoring in psychology and leadership education with minors in Spanish and economics. Libby is actively involved in the University Honors Program, her sorority, Launch Leadership, and Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society. This is her third summer with C&A Industries and she is working as an Intern Coordinator for the Skills for Success Internship Program. She is passionate about leadership, community service, and travel, and loves spending time with her friends and family.