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NSLS Success Stories, Leadership Development, Make a Better World, NSLS Chapter Spotlight

Helping First Responders One Coffee at a Time

Johnston Community College (JCC) Chapter Advisor Gail Rivera says her chapter wanted to do something for first responders in their town of Smithfield, North Carolina in order to fulfill their service project requirements.

“Every academic year we choose a theme and this year, it was ‘action.’ These themes are based on the characteristics of good leadership. For our project, the students decided to create a coffee bar for our community’s first responders, including law enforcement, fire, and EMS employees.”

An Act of Service Becomes a Permanent Fixture

JCC chapter members could have simply hosted a catered coffee hour, but that wasn’t quite what they had in mind. Instead, they envisioned a permanent addition to the campus and that’s just what they achieved; however, it took some effort to accomplish their overall vision.

“After getting an approved space dedicated to the coffee bar, students painted the space and hand-drew messages of love to our instructors and community EMS, fire, and law enforcement personnel. They added shelves with beautiful decor and stocked them with all types of snacks and drinks. We also presented a beautiful wood-burned NSLS plaque, created by one of our members, in dedication of the coffee bar.”

Carrying out this project and seeing it through required hard work and the application of strong leadership skills from chapter members. In addition to goal-setting techniques and strong communication, members had to work collaboratively together and with others.

“To achieve this task, our students demonstrated many leadership skills, including innovation, creativity, relationship building, organization, and the ability to turn information into action.”


Ingenuity and Bold Action Yield Positive Change

Servant leadership requires action to manifest in the communities we live and work. That’s something the JCC chapter members learned through experience with their service project. It’s one thing to profess a commitment to creating a better world, but actually making that commitment means turning words into action.

“Many of us think, dream, and speak about positive change, but few will actually do something about it. Leadership is solidifying positive change with action.”

The efforts of the JCC chapter in creating the first responders’ coffee bar have yielded that kind of positive change. By leading with love and putting it into action, the chapter has created a tangible representation of the community’s appreciation for first responders.

“The dedication of this coffee bar has a big impact on our community and chapter. It symbolizes the support, love, appreciation, and compassion we have for our first responders. For our chapter, it was ‘leadership in action.’ We’re truly thankful to all the first responders that continue to train the next generation."

It may seem like just a cup of coffee, but small acts create larger change and leave behind a ripple effect of kindness.

"Giving to those that give their all is an action that makes the world a better place. By continuing this small act, we hope to achieve our goal of being leaders who create positive change in the community and the world.”

Making a Difference the JCC Way

For other chapters who are eager to make a difference in their community, Rivera suggests starting with some brainstorming and observation. Identifying the needs of the community is a great way to start the process of putting change into action. Starting with a strong intention is also vital.

“I’d encourage chapters to have members express ‘where do you feel change is needed’ as a team building activity. Then together, choose one and put it into action. This is a good way to model leadership and to demonstrate how the power of working together as change agents can make the world a better place.”

In addition to the positive effects the chapter’s labor of love created, Rivera says the coffee bar project has had a tremendous impact on her personally.

“I love to see positive change happen, especially with our youth. Professionally, it's a feeling of achievement and validation. Knowing that you can have a small part in helping others to be their best selves is fulfilling.”

Read about another chapter that made a big impact with its community service project, raising thousands to help nonprofit organizations.