WILMINGTON — Between a rigorous academic schedule and extracurricular commitments, Katie Brown is a busy young lady. She is happy to give of her time to others.
“We only have so much time to live and so many moments, so we might as well make the most of it. And if I can do something small just to help others that spreads joy and makes others happy, and show compassion, it makes me feel good, for one, but it really just makes them feel so much better,” said Brown, a senior at St. Mark’s High School.
Katie Brown, a St. Mark’s senior, helps Mary Campbell Center resident Roland write notes in the library on the Mary Campbell Center. (The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com)
Brown is president of the National Honor Society at St. Mark’s, and the organization was the catalyst for her primary volunteer activity outside the school. National Honor Society members are required to do 20 hours of community service, and when Brown joined last year, she noticed that one of the opportunities was at the Mary Campbell Center, a residence in Brandywine Hundred for people with different disabilities.
“It was only for a couple of hours, so one of my friends was like, ‘Oh, come out to the Mary Campbell Center with us. It’s lots of fun,’” she said.
The experience had a profound impact on Brown, who stayed on as a volunteer and is there for several hours just about every Sunday. She said the residents are grateful to have someone who can play board games with them, write letters for them or take them for a walk.
It’s also a rewarding experience for Brown, who calls it a “win-win situation.”
“I kind of think of going to the Mary Campbell Center as my way of saying, ‘Thank you, God, for all the blessings that I do have in my life and all the great things that are going for me,’” she said.
Francis Corrigan, director of mission and ministry at St. Mark’s, said the residents win, too, by having Brown around.
“When she works with residents … Katie radiates goodness and compassion,” Corrigan said. “She is the type of person with whom others instantly feel comfortable.”
She has applied to be a volunteer at Union Hospital in Elkton, Md., and has already joined the hospital’s Explorer Program, which is for students interested in pursuing careers in medicine. Brown hopes to become a surgeon. Explorers at Union Hospital speak with physicians, nurses and other personnel about their jobs, and they visit different departments at the facility.
One of her duties at St. Mark’s was to organize the annual blood drive, which involved recruiting donors, scheduling, working in the canteen and dismantling everything when the drive was done.
“We had overflow on the list for the blood drive because so many people wanted to give,” she said.
Corrigan called Brown a “go-getter” and credited her for the high level of interest in the blood drive.
“For our fall blood drive, we usually operate with about 10 to 15 volunteers who run the day. Katie involved around 60 people,” he said.
Over the Christmas holidays, Brown rang a bell for the Salvation Army, and, as a member of the Key Club, went caroling at Christiana Hospital.
Another Key Club event is the school variety show, and Brown is the chairperson of the auditions.
In addition, she and a friend, Emma Heck, recently launched the St. Mark’s Book Club, for which Brown serves as president. The first meeting, which was held Jan. 10, attracted 17 people.
St. Margaret parishioner
Brown attended Caravel Academy for elementary school and followed her sister, Shannon, to St. Mark’s. She said she loves the environment at the school.
“There’s such a difference, kind of, I guess going to a Catholic school as opposed to going to a private school. The people sort of have this faith undertone. You’re taught about service, and the people almost feel compelled to go serve the community,” said Brown, a member of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish.
As a youngster, Brown began taking karate lessons, eventually earning a junior black belt, and started helping her mother, who is an instructor, with her classes at age 8 or 9 through eighth grade. But it was during her freshman year at St. Mark’s that she learned more about service and how it is part of the Catholic faith.
Her theology teacher talked about how do you express your faith “because you can’t just give God a hug physically, so you express your faith in terms of helping others out and share your love for God through helping others. I think that kind of got me motivated, definitely, to kind of reach out to others and help out, for sure,” she said.
She said the message of service is reinforced often at St. Mark’s in class and at Mass.
“You get it from the atmosphere here. If you have questions, you have people to turn to. It all reinforces that concept,” she continued. “When you learn about it in theology, when you’re educated about it, it’s like, ‘Wow! I only really do have so much time here. What am I going to do here that really matters and makes a difference and means something to me?’ I think volunteering definitely does that for me. It kind of makes you feel more fulfilled, as corny as that sounds.”
Brown intends to continue her service work in college and beyond. She said she would like to lead a community-service organization, maybe combining that with a study-abroad program.
“If I can make a little impact on someone’s life and make their day just a little bit better, I’m kind of happy to do that.”