Missouri First Lady Teresa Parson encourages kids to help communities with CommUNITY Service Challenge

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri First Lady Teresa Parson is encouraging kids to get out of the house and help others in their community this summer.

Parson’s “CommUNITY Service Challenge” is in its third year after a successful two-year run.

During the COVID pandemic year of 2020, Parson says she began brainstorming ideas for those who were stuck at home. She decided to challenge students in kindergarten through sixth grade to devote a small portion of their summer to instill a heart for service.

“It went over very, very well that year. It was something they could do on their own with not a lot of contact,” Parson told The Heartlander. “We had so many participate that we have continued to do this project each summer. We’re excited, and are on track to have another good year with students signing up across the state.”

The first year of the project brought 575 students out into their communities, representing 89 of Missouri’s 114 counties. Last year, 495 kids participated, representing 83 counties. Thus far, 2023 has already seen 308 youths sign up, representing 40 counties across the Show-Me State.

This year’s project began June 1 and runs until Friday, Aug. 4. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and siblings are often recruited to help the youngest of students with their projects. 

Students are encouraged to select a service project from eight categories. In order to complete the challenge, participants must complete an activity from at least four of the eight categories.

Parson hopes to inspire kids to be creative during the process, noting that a service project can be anything from simply delivering a thank you note to a neighbor to purchasing a gallon of paint to renovate park benches.

The first lady’s website lists the eight original service plan ideas: caring for the food-insecure, sharing appreciation, showing kindness to the elderly, supporting foster kids and their families, thanking first responders, uplifting the homeless, honoring veterans and military personnel, and serving a cause of the participant’s choice.

Upon registering for the challenge, each student’s family will receive additional information and a service log to fill out and return to the Office of the First Lady by Aug. 4. All participants will receive a t-shirt and a personalized certificate directly from the first lady’s office. The certificate reads, “This certificate is presented to (personalized name) for completing First Lady Teresa Parson’s CommUNITY Service Challenge.”

“We love sending those out,” she said. “Those will all go out after the completion of the first or second week of August.”

Parson is asking parents to send pictures of participants completing their service tasks, which she posts on her social media pages.

“If they are concerned about facial pictures, please take a behind-the-scenes picture of the children doing something. We would like to share and encourage others to show what everyone is doing across the state.”

If students don’t have internet access, they can call the Office of the First Lady at 573-751-0526 to receive challenge materials in the mail. If participants would like help signing up for the campaign, they can call Parson’s office and ask for Jill at 573-751-4141.

To begin the registration process, visit the registration website.

“You can make someone’s day just by a kind word, just by doing a small little deed,” Parson says. “If you see them mowing their yard, take them over a cold bottle of water or a snack. Those little things in life can make a big difference in an individual’s life.

“I hope each of these students learns what giving and sharing with others will do for them, as well as to the person that they are giving and sharing with and serving.”

About The Author

Get News, the way it was meant to be:

Fair. Factual. Trustworthy.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.