Aaron Shenk didn’t know what to expect when he signed up to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Goshen clubhouse. What he experienced was more than he had hoped.
“I had no idea what to expect. Everything has just been a bonus. I was just expecting to sweep here or there or supervise the gym, but I’ve been able to get down on my hands and knees and play with the kids. It’s been really, really great,” he said.
Shenk is studying business and marketing at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, but lives in Goshen. He said he’s enjoyed getting to know the kids at Club and forming ties with them.
“The first day, I was just trying to learn names. By the second or third day, these kids were approaching me and seeking me out to play games or to hang out. I think that’s really cool and really special.”
Shenk said he strives to be a positive role model for the members. He realizes some need a positive influence to help them develop good social skills with others.
“They may not have as many opportunities for figuring out how to have good relationships. So it’s been nice be able to help them with whatever they need to be helped with — whether it’s spelling or just talking about their day. It’s just nice to be that person they can trust, talk to and hang out with.”
When he started volunteering, Shenk said he wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.
“A year ago I didn’t expect to be here. Even a couple of months ago I didn’t expect to be here, but since I’ve been at the Club, it’s been nothing but great. Once you meet the kids, you’ll want to be here for a long time. These kids just light up with joy when they see you. They just love to hang out and it’s just better than any pay could ever be.”
Since he returned to school in Virginia, his volunteer hours have been put on hold, but Shenk said he plans to return when he’s back in Goshen.
“You might think in a few hours you wouldn’t notice much of a difference in the kid’s life or your life, but it really makes a big impact on me. I feel great for the rest of my day,” he said.
He encourages others to volunteer as well.
“If you have any urge to plug into the Club, I would suggest you try out a couple of hours to see how it feels. You will most likely be surprised by how fun it is and how amazing you’ll feel afterwards. Seeing the joy on the kids faces will make you want to come back.”
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