Monthly Archives: January 2014

MLK (not just) a Day of Service

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Greater Kansas City - MLK Day 2014 - Sunflower House - David (3)

Martin Luther King Day of Service always provides an excellent time to reflect on a life of service. For me, the experience of serving with so many other individuals reminds me of the good in the world, and that individuals can work together for a better community.

I am ashamed to admit, although service has been a large part of my life since I was young, I have never participated in MLK Day of Service until this year. I had no clue when I left for my volunteer projects with Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City that I would witness so many people making the choice to serve. When I left to help sort food for families in need at the local food bank, I had to park three blocks away because of all the people out and ready to put their hands to good use.

At the local YVCKC office, I witnessed a packed room of families searching to find the right words to put into handmade cards that might sooth the pains of children receiving treatment at the local hospital—and soothe the minds of those children’s families. One young man wrote a simple, yet touching, message that people in this world are thinking of you.

It was a beautiful sight to see. Not only the youth of YVC, but individuals everywhere, were taking the time to give back.

Kansas City - MLK Day at Harvesters

About halfway through the day I began to think about a Day of Service, and wonder what would Martin Luther King Jr. think about this day? MLK who dedicated his life to service and bettering the community for all. MLK who said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” I am sure he would be pleased to see the community coming together to address these broader concerns. It is certainly a start.

But in the end, one day of service is not really enough. Individuals in this community, and communities throughout the United States, do not only require support one or two days of service throughout the year. According to the most recent release of information from the United States Census Bureau 46.5 million people are living at or below the poverty line, with African Americans experiencing the highest poverty rate at 27.2%. Crippling poverty is a real struggle every day. For this, I believe Martin Luther King Jr. would not be proud, but we have the power not only to give our hands and our hearts one or two days of service a year. We have the power to dedicate ourselves to our communities and really work toward making a difference.

So do not let this last MLK day be the end of your service until next year, but the spark that ignites a lifelong dedication to the community in which you live. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Now that MLK day has passed, let’s not forget we have the power to address the broader concerns of humanity and continue into a life, not only a day, of service.

Kirsten Overby is YVC’s AmeriCorps VISTA Development & Marketing Coordinator. She spent MLK Day 2014 serving with YVCKC, making cards for families of hospitalized children and sorting food at the local food bank.

Anybody Can Serve

Posted by Youth Volunteer Corps on

MLK - Everybody can be great 1.16.14

Here at YVC, we love quoting Dr. Martin Luther King: “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

That’s why we believe that every single youth needs the opportunity to make a difference in their community. Picture these Youth Volunteers:

  • Kansas City - MLK Day 2013 (18)_webThe 17-year-old balancing school, sports and family commitments has a hard time finding an extra hour in her schedule. She can squeeze volunteering into her busy schedule whenever it’s convenient for her since we don’t require that she sign up for a long-term commitment.
  • The 15-year-old struggling to keep his grades up, wondering if it’s even worth the battle or if he should just drop out. He can connect to a YVC project that makes learning fun and shows that the things he learns in school can actually be applicable to “real life.”
  • The 11-year-old just entering into the middle school world, overwhelmed by the cliques that have formed, separating her elementary school friends. She can serve on a project and meet new friends who don’t see the boundaries that cliques divide and respect her for who she is.

They can all be great. They can all serve.

Since this philosophy is woven so deeply into YVC’s model, Martin Luther King Day of Service is a special time for YVC programs throughout the U.S.

On Monday, hundreds of Youth Volunteers will choose to devote their day off of school to a day on for service.

How will you spend your MLK Day? Will you serve others? Will you be great?

Volunteerism, the Highest Virtue of All

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Rebecca Yang - Calgary_square

Rebecca Yang, 16, YVC of Calgary

“The highest of distinctions is service to others.”—King George IV. This is a motto that I have acclaimed in my own life. It has allowed me to create a sense of equilibrium in my scattered teenage life. Volunteering has become a regular element of my life’s routines. It has offered me opportunities, resources and significant virtues that I am able to conduct my life with. Volunteering is about helping the community, but also about helping myself.

My extensive volunteering journey started a few years prior at the age of 13. I was merely searching for an extracurricular activity, and I knew I loved to be involved in my community. I found a sanctuary within the volunteering niche at Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC). However, I was not aware of how great of an impact this little niche would have on my life as a citizen of this world.

This year I was fortunate enough to join the YVC of Calgary Steering committee. This opportunity has allowed me to be a part of the creation of the volunteer projects and events at YVC of Calgary. As a result a group of four youth, including myself, created a recreational day at a local retirement home for one our volunteering projects. This establishment specializes in isolated seniors. Being the instigators of this project, we were dedicated to attending the projects every Saturday.

I was ecstatic by the embrace that we received from the seniors. But this was not a result that came so easily. The beginning of our projects were slow, however, we managed wrangle a few seniors to play some cards and pool with us. By having to endure through this project and to see our effort transform into a reality, gave me the sense of accomplishment. Interacting with the seniors at these volunteer projects also provided me with a perception most of my generation tends to escape these days. This has provided me a sense of order and balance, if you will, of the direction of society. We have been able to hinder the negative view of youth as well in our community through the acts of volunteerism.

YVC of Calgary 12.20.13

Rebecca with some of her fellow YVC of Calgary volunteers.

One particular senior I was privileged enough to meet, was a lady by the name of Arlie. Through a car accident many years ago, she had become a quadriplegic. I, along with another companion visited her during the projects to help her with various household chores. But most importantly, I got to experience her fascinating exuberance and grace. These little visits have taught me the significance of overcoming the slighter things in life and to never take anything for granted. I always complain about having to walk everywhere, but then I think of Arlie. She has given me the benefit of realizing the blessings of youth and health. Through volunteering at this one seniors’ home, I have awoken to many of life’s most important virtues. These are the factors that have created and will continue to morph my life into a well-rounded journey.

Another significant volunteering experience that I have been able to be a part of this year is the International Youth Advisory Board (IYAB). As a part of IYAB’s Growing YVC Committee, my fellow peers and I are responsible for spreading YVC branches to further parts of North America. It is an honor to be a part of a team that strives to spread volunteerism in a variety of communities. We are in the works of contacting various potential host organizations in select cities and towns to initiate a possible communal project between these programs and an YVC branch. Our group realizes that Rome was not built in a day. However, we feel optimistic that our precursory steps will triumph towards our end goal: to further promote and spread youth volunteerism all over the world.

IYAB - Summit 2013 (27)_cropped

2013-2014 International Youth Advisory Board

Volunteering is not only a method of helping others, but it is also about the overall sense of community that one tends to gain from such experiences. My volunteer journey has allowed me to creep outside of my own borders and to revel in the glories of helping the people of my community. The act of volunteering has also provided me with the unique perception of acknowledging and being grateful for the blessing I am fortuned with. These have all become essential virtues that I presently lead my life with every day. As King George suggested, volunteerism is truly the most virtuous service to all.

Rebecca Yang volunteers with YVC of Calgary and is a member of YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board.

Double the Impact with AmeriCorps

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Americorps_logoThanks to AmeriCorps, YVC of Racine County is able to offer twice as many projects for youth to serve on than it used to.

Since being awarded an AmeriCorps National Direct grant this summer, YVC Headquarters has been able to offer AmeriCorps members to support YVC programs all over the U.S. and help them connect to more youth in their community.

Before recruiting an AmeriCorps member at her program, Michelle Ortwein, the Program Director of YVC of Racine County, ran all aspects of the local YVC program. She planned projects, supervised youth on those projects, coordinated other logistics that came up, marketed the projects to the community and more. She was only able to offer about one YVC project a month during the school year, and she relied on community volunteers to help run summer projects.

Shakela Johnson - 2013-2014 AmeriCorps member

AmeriCorps Member Shakela

Ever since AmeriCorps member Shakela Johnson started with YVC of Racine County, they have offered at least two Saturday projects a month as well as extra projects on school days off.

“We’ve literally doubled the amount of events we’re able to offer,” Michelle says. “I can concentrate on finding opportunities and contacting potential volunteers, and Shakela can facilitate events.”

The additional support that Shakela provides has refreshed YVC of Racine County in more ways than just time, too.

“It’s a lot more fun!” Michelle says. “Shakela has the energy and enthusiasm to meet with the students. She’s great with the youth and a natural leader for them.”

They’re able to pursue new ideas to liven up their service projects, including playing soccer with a group of inner-city kids to keep them engaged in activities outside of school.

“The new perspective has given us time to pursue new ideas to keep youth engaged in volunteering,” Michelle says.

With YVC Headquarters administering the grant, YVC of Racine County and the other YVC programs thriving under AmeriCorps support can focus on the important task of getting youth in their communities hooked on volunteering.

Youth on a project with YVC of Racine County last summer

Youth on a project with YVC of Racine County last summer

“AmeriCorps has been a great fit for YVC of Racine County because people who apply for AmeriCorps positions tend to already be service-oriented people,” Michelle says. “Who can better inspire our youth to volunteer than someone who already has that passion herself?”

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