"The Service League is out there [volunteering] but we're spread around at different games and activities," Shropshire said. "So in particular I was [helping] in the ball-throwing games for the children ... giving them directions on how the game will work, letting them know their color and giving them the ball, making that visual contact with them and making them feel good.
"It is definitely one of my favorite events that the Service League is involved in and it is one of the most rewarding. To see the joy and excitement in the kids' faces as they participate in the different activities and games, it makes it just worth it all. I feel like this is their day to shine and just to be a part of that and to get to watch them participate and to be excited and feel good about what they're doing, it's worth any part that I could do. I feel like it's such a small part, but to be able to be out there with them and experiencing that with them is very rewarding."
With a record number of students participating at the Special Olympics, the CSL provided a lifeline of assistance in the form of financial and volunteer support. Held at Adairsville High School, the event featured about 230 competitors, who were developmentally delayed and/or physically disabled, from 17 schools.
"We've received a grant every year that we've [requested] one from [the Service League], which will pay for everything we have, which includes T-shirts, medals, all the awards," said LaVonna Frady, Special Olympics coordinator and Exceptional Education instructor at AHS. "It just basically helps take care of a lot of stuff. Also they volunteer that day and they pretty much run all the events for us. So they do the lineups, get the kids ready, they do the scoring.
"It's such a wonderful help to know that I can count on them every year. ... [The Special Olympics] means a great deal to the kids. They absolutely cannot wait for it every year. And just having the ladies' league here to support us is just great. It's something that I don't have to worry about because, for me, I have to get everything ready. I know I have this many of [the] ladies already situated in spots that I don't have to go find volunteers for. We used to do it that way and one year I was left with no volunteers. And that's when I recruited JROTC. ... So it's just wonderful having them help out."
Established in 1941, the CSL is comprised of more than 40 Bartow County women, who serve six-year terms and perform more than 60 hours per year of community service.
Along with volunteering with the Special Olympics, some of their outreach efforts include tutoring children weekly at the Boys & Girls Club's Cartersville Unit, conducting hearing and vision screenings for kindergarten students in the Bartow County School System; and distributing a weekly meal to Flowering Branch Children's Shelter residents. They also equip area children with school supplies, gifts and necessities throughout the year.
"Our main focus is to be there to support, to give our time," said Julie White Edwards, CSL president for 2012 to 2013. "So it's not only financial, but it's to be there.
"When you have a child that runs up to you when you see them in the school and say, 'You helped me with my homework last week,' or they're pointing at you when you see them out and they say, 'I met you at Special Olympics' or 'I met you when you brought food to us at the children's shelter,' [it shows] they connect with you. And I just think that connection with the children and just physically being there is much more important than financial, but yes, we do both."
In late March, the CSL presented a total of $51,390 -- generated through the league's Spring and Fall Rummage Sales, the Ways and Means Dance and Poinsettia Sale -- to more than 25 organizations. The recipients included Advocates for Children, Autism in Bartow, Bartow Christmas, Bartow Collaborative, Bartow County/Cartersville Special Olympics, Bartow County Library System, Bartow County Teacher Grant Program, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, Bartow County Women's Resource Center Inc., Bartow Give a Kid a Chance, Cartersville Schools Foundation; Cartersville Schools -- GateKey Scholarship, Backpack Buddies, The Etowah Scholarship Foundation, The Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, Bartow Area Habitat for Humanity, Joshua Brown Foundation, Juvenile Court -- Bartow County, Least of These, New Beginnings Food Outreach, Tranquility House, Steps of Faith, Bartow History Museum, Cartersville Little League, WinShape Camp for Communities and Bartow Health Access.
"A lot of our people in the community who donate money, some of them are new people each year but some of them are people who have supported us throughout the years. And that is the reason why we're here and that's how we function," Edwards said. "We're able to volunteer and donate what we can but also it's just nice that we have so many people who support us and who have always supported us.
"And to me, that's what's always been one of the [key] things that I've learned throughout my years in the Service League. We've just had so much community help, and people are just so giving when it has to do with the children. There's just so many great organizations out there that raise money and we're just privileged to be one of them."
For the local Boys & Girls Clubs, the CSL's support goes beyond monetary contributions and scheduled volunteer visits at the Cartersville Unit, which, each day, provides about 125 youth ages 6 to 18 supplemental education and activities like arts and crafts, basketball and board games.
"[Their support] has never waned. [It] stays the same and regardless of their components and the makeup of their members; they have been so, so very helpful for us since even before we opened our doors," said Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County. "... Being our strongest collaborative partner, the league allows our young people, male and female, to see there is a concerned adult in their lives, that there's a volunteer in their lives that spends time and resources to enhance their life skills and help them become better citizens. [They] primarily [provide help with] homework, Power Hour, Project Learn, mentoring.
"They have scheduled [volunteer times] every Thursday afternoon. And they're always here then but I don't even want to pigeonhole them into once a week. There's league members here all the time, which is great. That's what we want. Whether it's doing a planned event or whether it's just a spontaneous drop in, spending some time hanging out with kids, they are always looking out for what's best for us. Always."
For more information about the Cartersville Service League, whose members are invited to join, and its upcoming fundraisers, visit www.cartersvilleserviceleague.com.