Every Christmas Eve while most people are sleeping in and enjoying the holiday, junior Delaney Niswonger is hard at work downtown volunteering.
She helps out annually at an event called Casey’s Breakfast, where a meal, along with socks filled with gifts and practical items, are given to those in need. She fills the socks, plays with the children, and feeds the families. This is one of the things she enjoys most about the holiday season.
“It’s my favorite thing just to see their faces light up when [the kids] get to paint a Christmas tree on a placemat or something like that,” Delaney said. “It just makes you feel so good that you helped to make them happy.”
Appreciating this holiday joy here in Grand Rapids isn’t the only thing she does to help out. Delaney has also gone on multiple mission trips around the country to volunteer in other communities.
Traveling anywhere from Columbia Country, New York to Kenosha, Wisconsin, her work and experiences have allowed her to realize a lot about life outside of Forest Hills.
“Forest Hills is kind of like a bubble,” Delaney said, “and going outside of that ‘bubble’ is really cool [because you can] see how relationships are different, how people are different, and see the different perspectives.”
Delaney grew up around the church and doing mission work. She originally started to get into mission trips and traveling for them after seeing the impact it had on her sisters.
“My sisters went to work camp, and they traveled all over the country just to help people for [about] a week,” said Delaney, who got involved in her own work soon after. “I saw that and saw the joy that they got from it and how it’s giving to a person, but you’re also getting something from it.”
Her family as a whole has shaped her as a person. She is thankful for how much they encourage and help her in every aspect of her life.
“They are so supportive,” Delaney said, “and I am so grateful that I have a family like that because not everyone has a family that’s so tight-knit like mine.”
Delaney has also used her family, as well as her friends, to find new perspectives. She understands the importance of these strong relationships in her life and how it has shaped her.
“I think [family and friends’ impact on my life] just shows me how many opinions everyone has,” Delaney said. “I like seeing things from different perspectives. I think it’s really cool.”
All that Delaney has done in her life has come to shine through in her personality, and her friends agree.
“I’m pretty open about a lot of things,” Delaney said. “I like to think that I’m caring, and I think [that’s how my friends would describe me]. I really want to make sure everyone is happy and everyone is set.”
Delaney also carries these traits into her extracurriculars. Aside from youth group and mission trips, she is very involved in cheer and crew. She is often described as the “mom friend” and even has a crew t-shirt that says “crew mom” on it.
“I think [being a mom friend] is how people would describe me,” Delaney said. “I’m always like ‘does anyone need anything? I have all this stuff because if you forgot I have it. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out…’ I always have a bunch of extra things. I carry around big ziplock bags of extra socks; so, if their socks get wet at a regatta then people can have more pairs of socks. Little things like that.”
Her caring personality is a result of her experiences and ability to see life through other people’s perspectives. This has allowed her to be more grateful for what she has and everything that people do for her.
For Delaney, leaving the ‘bubble’ helped her to see life with new eyes.
“Going and seeing how people are different and [seeing] their gratefulness—[like] how much wiping down a table at a community center could make someone be so grateful,” Delaney said.“Where here, someone wiping down a table in the cafeteria is like ‘oh that’s their job’ or ‘it’s fine, they’re supposed to do that, why does it matter?’ or ‘she’s just being nice, whatever’. But it’s like the little things are so cherished, where I think in Forest Hills, sometimes, they’re put to the side. They’re not a big enough deal.”