Mandating community service is bad

You're dreading having to do jail time, but it's your first offense, so maybe they'll go easy on you.

Your attorney surprises you by suggesting that you ask the judge to sentence you to 500 hours of community service instead of 10 days in the county jail. Scene 2: A finance director at a nonprofit that helps low-income women get jobs, gets a call from the volunteer center.

So it may be more important whether and why people remain committed to their service than what made them start in the first place.It was a rather sparse day for the center, as it was pouring rain...hardly the sort of weather that brings out folks who are struggling financially. "She was a youngish African American woman with a big swatch of blue died into her hair, and she and I passed a few genial moments. " She dangled a little skirt just the right size for the little girl. While this is certainly well-meaning, it's always struck me as a bit off. Well, to start with, mandated voluntarism is an oxymoron.It was a good time to get stuff done, and I got into a crankin' groove, racking jumpers and pants and sweaters in a functional voluntaristic Tai Chi. She'd worked up until about six months ago, until she got sick and couldn't work. As we sorted through little donated jackets and tiny skirts and dresses, she cooed and laughed, and called over to a very young Latina with a toddler on her hip whenever something struck her as particularly cute. If you're being forced to serve, it ain't volunteering. You serve because you're moved by the value of service.After sorting and hanging several racks full of clothes, one of the clients who was just sorta hanging around watching me work decided it might be less boring if she helped out. It also doesn't seem to reflect the why of a service ethic. It's something you do out of the desire to help, for the simple joy of being a part of something that you recognize as valuable. "I'm going to do this again."As I vacuumed up the place after closing time, there was a little cluster of local teens hovering around the center manager. The idea, of course, is that requiring community service of all students as a prerequisite for graduation will teach the value of voluntarism.These workers are nonsalaried, temporary personnel who require screening, orienting, and so on, just as all other volunteers do.Most importantly, it is the volunteer program manager who is most skilled at interviewing and placing people based on their potential and not always on their resumes.Motivations for volunteering often mixed Court-appointed volunteers are not the only volunteers who do so to fulfill external requirements.Students volunteer through service-learning programs in order to graduate from high school and to obtain class credit at middle schools, high schools, and colleges.The volunteer program manager may also need to train staff about appropriate behavior with court-ordered volunteers.In the right placement, a community service worker will thrive while providing truly useful help to the organization.

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