Students looking to get involved in community service now have another avenue to pursue their interests.

Mira Levitan
Volunteer and Law School student Debbie Goldfarb holds four-month-old Andy at Time for Tots, a branch of SOS Community Services of Ypsilanti. (SHUBRA OHRI/Daily)

The off-campus program, Time for Tots, is a non-profit Washtenaw County organization that operates in conjunction with SOS Community Services of Ypsilanti.

Time for Tots is a daycare service for homeless families from shelters in the Washtenaw County area open to toddlers and preschool-age children. Parents who need to spend time searching for a new job or a new home can send their children to this service rather than bringing them to interviews.

The program “provides the parents with time to go to appointments, and the flexibility to make it to more jobs. If they are taking a child, it creates more stress,” said Ellen Cramer, Time for Tots supervisor.

For students such as LSA freshman Carly Tracey, the experience has been one of discovery. As an ongoing assignment for her English 124 class, Tracey had to sign up for a program to fulfill a community service requirement. Her experience with Time for Tots will be tied into her final class project about dealing with the difficulties of being homeless.

“The experience has opened my eyes to kids, and life in general,” Tracey said. “The volunteering aspect has given me a new view on the paper. We are actually part of the life of someone, as we would not be normally.”

Although the program is not affiliated with the University, many students like Tracey volunteer their time to work with the children for about three to four hours a week. At any time, 10 to 12 volunteers work at the center with each staff member working with a small number of children.

“Each caregiver has one or two children, and plans a lesson for them. Because there are such a wide variety of ages, we can’t plan lessons for the entire group,” Cramer said.

Roommates and Law School students Kavitha Babu and Debbie Goldfarb both actively volunteer in the program, which they discovered through a flier. Babu, who has been involved in the program since January, works in the preschool room with four- to six-year-old children.

“It is inspirational and very hopeful to see that there are people out there who work so hard and care for people who have less than them,” Babu said.

Volunteers work with children during the entire day and concentrate on learning activities such as reading, crafts and singing. In addition, the program has a different theme for each week, and incorporates theme-related activities including field trips.

“Last week, we went to the natural history museum. The week before, a firefighter came with his truck. They really gear the activities toward educational aspects,” Babu said.

The center also provides services for children, including referral for counseling or health needs. And counselors come to the actual center in order to eliminate the need for parents to create appointments.

“They are just normal kids – they like to be played with. They’re not any different because they are homeless,” Tracey said.

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