Monthly Archives: February 2014

Serving Together Throughout the YVC Network

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Madison Fitzgerald - Greater Kansas City_squareWhen the International Youth Advisory Board convened in Kansas City for this year’s Summit, we wanted to preserve the spirit of unity that this event provides. There are YVC’s all over the country all doing fantastic things in a way to best benefit their communities.

Personally, I didn’t know that YVC existed outside of Kansas City until I had been volunteering for a few years. This is something that definitely needs to change. For this reason, IYAB has a Connecting YVC committee.

For this year’s connecting event, we have decided to encourage all 30 YVC Affiliates to get involved in Global Youth Service Day. This event not only connects YVCs across the country, but volunteers serving as a part of Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day across the world. Recognizing others who participate in volunteering is important because it validates our own service and encourages awareness. Who knows, maybe a twelve year old girl will see her local YVC on the news and want to come volunteer!

IYAB - Summit 2013 (27)_croppedYouth Volunteer Corps is a network of people striving to make the world a better place through volunteering, and its members should be aware of their connection to communities across North America.

The Connecting YVC Committee is preparing service-learning lessons, team-builders, and icebreakers for all the YVC’s in an effort to unify our scattered affiliates in their service activities. In addition, we are designing t-shirts that can be sold as a fundraiser to get more people at next year’s Summit! This yearly event is the ultimate YVC connection, and I hope everyone seriously considers attending this fall. In the meantime, Global Youth Service Day will connect us without having to travel.

We may be over a thousand miles away from each other (shout out to my friends in Calgary!) but we are all working towards the same ideal. Let’s celebrate our connections!

Madison Fitzgerald volunteers with YVC of Greater Kansas City and is a member of YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board.

One Youth Volunteer: Three Stories of Impact

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Sophia Mauro 2013 - 2A Few Books Until a Smile

“Sopphhhhiaaaa!” Screams of joy and shouts of my name from 4 and 5 year olds greet me as I walk in classroom 24 at the Head Start daycare of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

Every Wednesday, even if I am tired after a hard day of school, this wild welcome brightens my day. A few kids come over to give me a hug, and immediately grab my hand, pulling me in 10 different directions and asking me to come play with them.

But with every volunteer job, there is usually one person that makes the program extra special.

One week, one of the kids was sitting alone in the corner, pouting. He did not give me the usual warm welcome. I made my way through the chaos to plop down on the beanbag chair next to him.

Today was a rough day, his teacher told me, and he was having trouble getting along with the others. I saw the beginnings of a smile as he handed me a well-worn copy of Goodnight Moon. Next came Go Dog Go. Then another, and another, as he eagerly plucked books from the shelf.

Gradually, his pout disappeared and a bright smile replaced the frown. After nearly an hour, his day had turned around.

His mom came to pick him up and he greeted her enthusiastically with a joyful smile. It was just volunteering with one kid during one hour on one day, but I really felt the impact that I had made.

YVC is about thousands of these little moments across our community, and when you add them all up, you can see the difference volunteering makes for both the volunteers and for those we serve.

Sophia Mauro 2013 - 1A Life-Changing Meal

YVC always makes sure the agency is ready for our arrival and has coordinators at each site, not just to oversee our work, but also to educate us about the agency and the people we are serving. When I volunteer on my own, there is nothing worse than showing up at an agency to find they forgot I was coming and have nothing for me to do, but quickly invent some cans that needed moving.

However, I have moved cans for a good purpose at the Village Presbyterian Food Pantry, and in the end they sort of moved me.

I was helping a woman with her monthly shopping trip to their mini grocery store. We chatted as she shopped. I learned about her daughter in college, her past life as a chef, and then what brought her to the Village Food Panty. She fell ill, ended up with a feeding tube, and had to quit her job due to her disability. She could no longer work as a chef and had trouble finding any other work.

Now, this former chef was walking down the aisles of a food pantry. It struck me how quickly her fortunes had changed.

Sophia Mauro 2013 - 3While many of the customers of the food pantry were thrilled to have something, anything, to eat, my customer saw something more. She was having fun! The assorted vegetables excited her and the fresh bread was going to be something more than just sandwiches. She decided on fresh vegetable soup in crusty bread bowls with a cheesy layer on top.

Each aisle was a new opportunity. She grew teary eyed at the end, and I was touched by how a simple shopping trip to a food pantry gave her so much more than just food.

Dodgeball Breaks Barriers

Another volunteering experience at YVC, Camp Empowerment, put me into a new situation. Most of my work has been with young kids or seniors. But at this summer camp for kids from the neighborhood, I found myself “volunteering” to help people my own age.

It was unexpectedly awkward at first. It wasn’t like I could sit down with them and read Goodnight Moon or ask about their kids. I’m not the type that just starts randomly talking to other teenagers, especially when I don’t know them. However, we quickly found commonalities that got us going.

Sophia Mauro 2013 - 4Sports broke the ice, and a few intense games of dodgeball and soccer created bonds between us and left us chatting, laughing, and having a good time. One girl loved the same music as I did, and another group of us found out that we all loved playing telephone pictionary, a YVC favorite. For the next three days, I returned and spent time with the kids, finding many friends both within the volunteering group and at the camp.

Through YVC, I have seen that people need others to give a helping hand and that we all have more in common than we think. And I can attest that hour by hour, job by job, the seemingly little things that each YVC volunteer does add up to make a very big difference for many, many people. YVC helped me to realize that volunteering is not about trying to save the world. Instead, it’s about lots of little things combined that make a big difference.

Sophia Mauro is a 16-year-old volunteer with YVC of Greater Kansas City. Do you have a story to tell of your experience with YVC? Email Lacey at [email protected].

Infographic: How You’re Changing the World

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Youth Volunteers changed the world last year. Here’s how:

YVC 2012-13 Infographic

Click to Tweet: YVC youth are changing the world. #Infographic

Spotlight On: YVC of Yellowstone County

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Yellowstone SpotlightWelcome to the inaugural YVC Spotlight! Each month we will be highlighting one of our amazing Affiliates and their youth in Canada and the U.S.

SarahTo kick off this series we are heading to YVC of Yellowstone County in Billings, Montana, where Sarah Kern, 15 year-old Youth Volunteer, will give us a quick tour. Yellowstone County has been a part of the YVC family since 2009, and since then they have been pushing the boundaries of possibility with new and innovative projects.

Recently, YVC of Yellowstone County toured a TV station in Billings and learned about a career in media. They then used this new-found knowledge to create a promotional video for their YVC! Great job Yellowstone! We’re excited to see what you come up with next!

Sarah Kern is one of the many outstanding Youth Volunteers at YVC of Yellowstone County. She recently received a 100-in-1 award at the 2013 Summit for reaching over 100 volunteer hours!

Meet Sarah:

How long have you been volunteering with YVC?

Since November of 2012.

Tell me about your favorite YVC project:

My favorite projects have been our projects at the animal shelter, because the animals are always really fun and excited to see you. We go to the animal shelter about every two months, sometimes every month.

Animal ShelterWhat makes YVC of Yellowstone County unique?

I guess I would have to say, probably, that we do projects that are very small townish. We do things that somehow get very branched out. When we volunteer, we do things that get noticed. In a lot of places people don’t realize what volunteers are doing. When we do those things we get recognition.

What new experiences have you had with YVC?

I don’t really think there were lots [of new experiences] for me because we do lots of cleaning things, which isn’t bad, but I love doing those things at home. Other new things… working with little kids. We work with Friendship House, which is kind of like a daycare but free for low income families. I get to watch kids light up when they see me and realize I get to make people happy by doing something that I thought was just fun.

What is the craziest project you’ve done?

I think that would have to be at Tumbleweed, which is an organization that helps runaway teens. We organized hundreds of clothes on racks. It was pretty crazy because we were there all day sorting clothes. They give the clothes to the teens.

Yellowstone County 2014What is your favorite icebreaker?

Simon Says, because you can make people do funny things. You can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do because they are nervous.

 What inspires you to volunteer?

I wanted to try something different and do something for the good of someone. I was kind of thinking, “What am I doing? I’m a teenager and instead of sitting around and hanging out, I can go out and do something that helps people.”


Thanks to Sarah for telling her story and for all the great things she’s doing in her community! Follow YVC of Yellowstone County on Facebook to stay updated on all the amazing things they’re up to.

This is the first in a series of YVC Spotlights. Keep an eye on the blog at the beginning of each month to get to know another YVC community. Your YVC might be next!

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