Eighth-grader makes a difference at Community Service Center
RANTOUL — No one makes Nicole Miller go to the Community Service Center three times a week.
But Miller has a simple reason for being a constant presence at the building, at 520 E. Wabash Ave., Rantoul.
"I think it's really fun to help people (and) to make a difference," she said. "It's better than staying at home."
The eighth-grader at Eater Junior High has volunteered her time at the Community Service Center for nearly two years. She started coming when her grandmother, Janet Marie, volunteered at the building. Since school started in mid-August, she started coming on her own and is the youngest person helping there.
She helps at least three times a week for two hours, walking to the building after the school day ends at Eater.
"We get very few teenage kids volunteering," said Andy Kulczycki, the Community Service Center executive director. "We don't have a whole lot of stuff on a daily basis where we could use a lot of volunteers, but she seems to have the ability to do a lot of things and handle different kinds of tasks."
One of the main tasks the artistic and self-assured 13-year-old does is help with the food pantry. She stocks food items on the shelves, unloads food from the trucks that come to the center and distributes the food to the families.
Miller said seeing the families' reactions to receiving food is her favorite part of working at the center.
"I feel like I made their lives a little bit better," she said.
Her contributions go beyond just working with the food pantry. Miller helps with straightening the office lobby area, copying and cutting forms for the center's holiday bureau and shredding papers. She has also assisted in processing a large mailing request.
"She's always looking for something to do and has the initiative to tell us when she's done with something and ask for something else, which not everybody does," Kulczycki said. "I think that she's able to look outside of herself and her social group and see that there's other things that can be done."
Miller is interested in becoming an artist and is an avid drawer already. She hopes to combine that passion with volunteering later in life.
"I keep getting this thinking that maybe when I'm older," Miller said, "I can have a job and work here, too, just like I do now."
Community Service Center Service Coordinator Karen Kelly said Miller is "wise beyond her years."
While Miller is still contributing to the Community Service Center, Kelly said, Rantoul Township High School sophomore Myeshia Hinshaw also volunteered her time this summer.