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In recent weeks, I have been really feeling down about what is happening at the highest levels of government, both on the state and national levels — the never-ending stream of lies, name-calling, derogatory statements, character assassination and much more.

I keep asking myself what sort of example this sets for young people today.

The obvious response is that those who should be stellar examples for young people and others today are setting horrible examples. The simple fact of the matter is that we cannot look to Washington or Springfield for moral inspiration.

At the same time, that does not mean that there is no reason for hope or that there is no one to whom we can look for moral inspiration. What we often overlook is that sometime the inspiration comes from friends and neighbors and from young people themselves.

An example of this happened a few days ago when QC Closet2Closet, a 501©3 nonprofit organization developed by Logan, Amber, Amy and Liam Haskill with the help of their parents Dan and Alli Haskill (who is one of my colleagues at Augustana,) had the ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new space in the Seaford building in Rock Island.

QC Closet2Closet grew out of the experience of Amber and Amy, who spent six years in foster care before being adopted by the Haskill family. They knew what it was to be like to be in foster care and not have the kind of clothing other kids had. They decided to do something about it.

The result was QC Closet2Closet, which collects gently used clothing and makes it available to foster children and children who are homeless. As noted on their website, since 2013, they have collected over 28,000 clothing items and accessories and have provided wardrobe assistance to over 3500 preteens and teens — a very impressive record!

QC Closet2Closet had been making the clothing available to qualified preteens and teens on designated Saturdays at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moline. Now they have their own location and will be open on a weekly basis.

The Haskill family is but one example of teenagers in our community who care about other people and are committed to helping those in need. Several of the high schools in the Quad-Cities hold food drives to collect nonperishable items to give to food pantries to distribute to those in need.

Teenagers in our communities work as volunteers doing everything from helping out with afterschool reading programs to working with food centers to sort out and package donated food for distribution to those who are needy. In short, there is a lot going on, much of which is not noticed or recognized even though it should be.

And how might teenagers and others get involved in volunteer activity? The key is identifying what needs to be done, as did the Haskill family, and then rolling up one’s sleeves and getting to work.

Not everyone, of course, is going to establish a nonprofit charitable organization, as did the Haskill family. There are, however, many other ways to get involved.

A useful resource for teenagers looking for volunteer opportunities is “Quad City Youth Volunteers,” a website created by Mariah Becker, a University of Iowa student. She established the website “in order to get the word out about organizations that need volunteers, and to help youth who want to volunteer get connected with these organizations.” IT can be accessed at qcyouthvolunteers.tripod.com/volunteers/id1.html.

In short, there is a lot going on right here in the Quad-Cities. Forget about what is happening (or isn’t happening) in Washington and Springfield. Instead, look at what the Haskill family and other young people are doing right here in the Quad-Cities. That is where the action is.

Daniel E. Lee is the Marian Taft Cannon Professor in the Humanities at Augustana College; danlee@augustana.edu.

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