Victor teens thrive on volunteer work - Catholic Courier

Victor teens thrive on volunteer work

Volunteer work isn’t something Elly Fisher has to force herself to do. In fact, helping others almost seems to come naturally to the 19-year-old, who usually logs more than 300 hours of community service each year.

Elly and her 17-year-old brother, Leo Fisher IV, recently received Congressional Award Bronze and Silver Medals for their volunteer work, and each is currently working toward a Gold Medal. The awards, which were established by Congress in 1979, recognize service, achievement and initiative in young people, according to www.congressionalaward.org.

Elly and Leo aren’t the only ones in their family with a penchant for community service, however. Helping others is a family affair for the Fishers, who belong to St. Patrick Parish in Victor.

“My husband and I met while doing community service, so it’s a very community-service oriented family,” said the teens’ mother, Angela, recounting the story of how she met Leo Fisher III while both were teaching at the Red Cross in Rochester.

Angela and the elder Leo made sure community service was part of their children’s lives from the very beginning, Elly said. She can’t remember exactly when she first began volunteering with her family, but she knows it was when she was quite young.

“I remember when I was little, I would go with my parents to pick up litter on the side of the road or help with some event that the Kiwanis was putting on, like a breakfast with Santa,” Elly said. “People would call our house and ask if anyone could help. Usually we would all volunteer.”

As she grew up, Elly continued to donate her time to various community organizations. She worked with the local Kiwanis Club, taught swimming lessons, worked at the Victor Food Cupboard and helped out at St. Patrick. She was also an active Girl Scout, and it was at a Girl Scout leadership conference in Rhode Island about four years ago that she first heard about the Congressional Award program.

“I decided that I might as well do it because I did a lot of the requirements already. All I really needed to do was write it down,” Elly said. “I also thought that it would be interesting to actually see and keep track of what I was doing with my spare time.”

There are six different levels in the Congressional Award program — Bronze, Silver and Gold Certificates and Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals. To complete each level, participants must log a certain number of hours in each of four program areas, which are voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition or exploration.

Recorded hours are cumulative, so hours used to meet the requirements of one level are carried over and used for the next level as well. To achieve the highest award, the Gold Medal, a participant must complete 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours of personal-development activities, 200 hours of physical-fitness activities and four consecutive overnights of exploration or expedition activities.

A young person may register for the program when he or she is 13{1/2} years old, and the program requirements must be completed by the individual’s 24th birthday.

Elly earned the 200 hours of community service needed for the Silver Medal by working with a number of different organizations, including the Victor Food Cupboard, Meals On Wheels and a local Brownie troop. To satisfy the other program-area requirements for the award, she joined her high school’s color guard, learned Latin and attended the 2003 National Catholic Youth Conference in Houston, Texas, among other things.

Elly’s community-service activities helped her earn a service scholarship from St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, where she is now a sophomore. To maintain her scholarship, Elly has to complete 200 hours of community service each year, so she has added a few more organizations — including Al Sigl Center, Pittsford Food Cupboard and the Special Olympics Rainbow Guard — to the list of places she volunteers.

While Elly has enjoyed the benefits she’s reaped from her community service, those rewards are not the reason she helps others. She enjoys the good feeling she gets from helping others and said she usually has a good time while she’s volunteering.

“Most of this stuff I would have done without doing the Congressional Award. I really don’t look at these awards as recognition for what I do; instead it’s just accomplishing goals that I set for myself. While I accomplished these goals, I got to help out my community, and that’s a great feeling,” she said. “Community service has always been a huge part of my life, and I hope that I will always have a lot of time and energy to put towards service.”

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