Mensa Cares! Week will be April 7-13 this year to coincide with National Volunteer Week. Normally this is held on the third week of April, but with religious holidays such as Easter and Passover falling later than usual this year, National Volunteer Week has been moved up to avoid conflicts and allow more people to participate. All Local Groups are encouraged to create or participate in community service events highlighting Mensa’s positive contribution to the areas and neighborhoods where our members live. Some of the group contributions members have made in the past included tree-planting, highway and shoreline cleanup, reading to senior citizens, food and clothing banks, library book sales, and similar efforts.
Mensa’s Community Service efforts don’t have to be limited to that week, of course. The Community Services Committee encourages the continuous visibility of Mensa in our communities. It gives our members opportunities for service, which is brought up frequently in our member surveys, and provides a response to the often-asked question, “What does Mensa do?”
American Mensa established the Community Services Committee in 1997, so this is not a new program, although many have been unaware of it. Mensa Cares! is not intended to supplant other local group activities, but to supplement them for members who wish to participate, with benefits to both the community and to Mensa. Are there any projects that you would like to see your local group support? The primary points of caution are that the projects should not be advocacy programs (as an organization, we do not express any opinions as being those of Mensa), and they should not use local group funds (those should be used for the benefit of the membership). This does not preclude members using their own funds or doing fundraising, should they wish to do so.
Of course, Mensa does promote public good in other ways, through the Mensa Foundation and its annual College Scholarship Program. Many of our local groups are hard at work at judging scholarship essays that came in through January 15, and will submit their scoring by mid-February, at which point the essays move to the Regional level. At the end of the process, several awards will be made to both Mensa members and general public (including both members and non-members), with at least one award for each participating local group. Notification to winners begins in mid-May, and all Scholarship chairs and winners are invited to a reception at the Annual Gathering in July.
The Foundation is also the primary sponsor of our Gifted Youth programs, such as the Mensa For Kids website, the Bright! enewsletter, the Excellence in Reading program in partnership with the Library of Congress, and Parent/Teacher resources such as lessons and activity plans and TED® Connections. While it is not always possible to bring gifted youth together in local groups where the number of young members is limited or separated by distance and age, there are many other programs available to our youngest members through the Mensa Foundation.
Until next month (or until I see you online),
Thomas George Thomas