Monthly Archives: July 2015

A Walk Through Rose Estates

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Micaela Vaccaro - 1_squareYVC’s Marketing and Communication Intern Micaela is working to tell the YVC story this summer. Here is the story of one of her first Youth Volunteer Corps project visits.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Rose Estates Assisted Living Community in Overland Park, Kansas, where Youth Volunteers were serving on a project with Youth Volunteer Corps of Kansas City. The youth had been volunteering all week by visiting the residents and doing activities with them, such as playing bingo and balloon volleyball, taking them to a movie, and helping with their exercise classes. Pamela Luna, Rose Estate’s Life Enrichment Director, took us through their facility as she applauded the impact that YVC had had on the agency that week. She introduced me to the Youth Volunteers, as well as many Rose Estates residents and staff members who had interacted with the volunteers during the week.

Planting Seeds for the Future

As we walked to where the Youth Volunteers were preparing to do their service-learning activity for the day, Pam commented on the benefits of having Youth Volunteers at Rose Estates.

“I am all about Youth Volunteer Corps. I enjoy the chance to watch the children grow so fast,” Pam said. “They are totally different now than when they first came at the beginning of the week.”

The youth are often inspired by their interactions with the residents and the stories they hear about their lives, and Pam characterized their interactions as “planting seeds.”  Pam noted that one volunteer had talked to a resident who was a psychiatrist, and afterwards expressed that she may enjoy being a psychiatrist someday too.

Captivating Life Stories

As we waited for the service-learning activity to begin, one Youth Volunteer named Cooper told me his favorite story that he had heard during the week.

“I heard a really cool story from a woman named Marie who used to own a trucking company that supplied gasoline to places like QuikTrip and 7-Eleven,” Cooper said. “Then one time one of the gas trucks exploded!”

When Cooper told me about the explosion, all of the other boys nearby chimed in, conveying the amazement they felt when they, too, heard the story.

“There were a lot of stories in my life that the youth wanted to hear about,” Marie said, when asked about her interactions with the youth.

We had the opportunity to observe the youth’s service-learning activity, an elderly simulation, during which the youth wore goggles designed to limit their range of vision, ear plugs to imitate hearing loss, and popcorn kernels in their shoes to imitate bunions.

Summer 2015 - Rose Estates - elderly simulation (7)
An Appreciation for Youth Volunteerism

When the service-learning activity had concluded, we went to visit some of the residents that had interacted with the Youth Volunteers during the course of the week. Among the residents that the Youth Volunteers met were many with careers that the youth found fascinating, such as Chummy, a World War II nurse, or Cecil, a former Kansas State football player. When asked what the Youth Volunteers have done for Rose Estates, Chummy, was surprised that we didn’t already know.

“How can you not know how much the youth have accomplished?” said Chummy. “I love children, and I like having them here.”

Residents throughout Rose Estates shared a similar appreciation for having the youth in the facility, and recognized that not only do they benefit from having the youth there, but they also contribute to making each youth’s volunteer experience eye-opening.

“It’s a good experience for them and helpful for us. It gives them a chance to see how us folk get by,” said Cecil, who played volleyball, ate pizza, and watched a movie with the volunteers.

Making a Big Difference through Small Gestures

The Youth Volunteers discover that they can make a difference in the lives of the residents, even through seemingly small acts of kindness.

“The youth were great. They lined up all across my room and sang me happy birthday,” said Sheldon, a Rose Estates resident. He had forgotten it was his birthday that week, and was glad the youth reminded him in such a thoughtful way.

“They fall in love with you,” one resident named Lola said. She reflected on her interaction with a girl who shared chips with her during snack time, an act Lola thought was kind and adorable.

The youth often form relationships with the residents during their time volunteering, and many have a certain resident that they make a point to visit with each time.

“One boy always talks to Lola when he comes,” Pam said. Lola loves sports, and talking to Lola time after time helped him discover that he wants to be a sports announcer when he grows up.

Carol, a Rose Estates resident, says having the youth around makes her feel younger.

Carol, a Rose Estates resident, says having the youth around makes her feel younger.


Benefits Youth Volunteers Bring to Assisted Living Homes

The volunteers also bring a new energy to Rose Estates, an aspect that some residents find reinvigorating.

“I like to see the kids around here helping out. It makes me feel warm inside,” said Carol, a Rose Estates resident. “Just being around them makes me feel younger.”

The residents have also learned the value of having an organized group of youth volunteer at their assisted living home.

“I found that I enjoyed the volunteers tremendously. They were intelligent, fun-loving, and very considerate,” said Ida, a Rose Estates resident. “A volunteer program is one of the greatest things you can do to help these kids learn to relate with us. They are an asset to our activities, and they really are adorable and fun to be with—these kids make a difference.”

Tammy, Rose Estate’s Wellness Director, was also impressed by the Youth Volunteers’ performance that week.

“These kids have been awesome,” said Tammy. “There’s been a lot of laughter and playfulness around here, and they’re a big help to the nursing staff.”

Summer 2015 - Rose Estates (33)
Positive Change Through Partnership

These many stories are a testament to the importance of having youth volunteer at assisted living homes, as well as YVC’s success at Rose Estates. Rose Estates’ partnership with Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City has become more than just a great opportunity to give back to the community. It empowers both the youth and the residents, allowing them to form bonds and learn life lessons in a unique atmosphere.

“We’ve never been the same since the youth started coming. They do so much for us and you can tell that their heart is really in it,” Pam said. “They have such an impact on my life as an Activities Director. They make me love my job more because I see the joy they put in our resident’s hearts.”

Youth Volunteer Corps would like to thank Pam and the Rose Estates staff for all that they do to ensure that the YVC Youth Volunteers are welcomed, celebrated and appreciated every time they serve at Rose Estates.

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2015-2016 International Youth Advisory Board

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The 2014-2015 IYAB at last year’s Summit. The new term of IYAB will meet for the first time in-person at Summit 2015 in October.

Introducing the 2015-2016 International Youth Advisory Board! Thousands of youth serve with YVC each year, and these 26 youth represent each of them. They focus on providing input on all aspects of YVC programming on an international level while also bringing new ideas back to their local YVC programs.

The application process was very competitive this year, so we are excited to announce the following youth as the 2015-2016 International Youth Advisory Board:

  • Garrett Beaulieu – Alpena, MI
  • Katharine Birkness – Calgary, AB
  • Christopher Bratcher – Hampton Roads, VA
  • Chloe Buchler – Alpena, MI
  • Joy Chiles – Philadelphia, PA
  • Jack Dean – Baton Rouge, LA
  • Thomas Ferguson – Hampton Roads, VA
  • Karin Frederickson – Corvallis, OR
  • Ryan Frederickson – Corvallis, OR
  • Aubrey Grimshaw – Cedar City, UT
  • Bradley Herbert-Perez – Muskogee, OK
  • Laura Jarriel – Anderson, SC
  • Aislinn Kinsella – Kansas City, MO
  • Amanda Kuang – Calgary, AB
  • Weston Lee – Ogden, UT
  • Katja Lemermeyer – Calgary, AB
  • Brandi Manning – Alpena, MI
  • Cameron Marshall – Manhattan, KS
  • Sophia Mauro – Kansas City, MO
  • Mackenzie Mitchell – Danbury, CT
  • Matthew Norris – Anderson, SC
  • Samara Rangel – Cedar City, UT
  • Kaylin Shelley – Cedar City, UT
  • Riley Strube – Little Rock, AR
  • Maddie Tolsdorf – Kansas City, MO
  • Martin Tomlinson – Kansas City, MO
 Stay up to date on everything this all-star group of youth will accomplish this year by signing up for our monthly youth service newsletter:

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Cat’s in the Cradle

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Micaela Vaccaro - 1_squareYVC’s Marketing and Communications Intern Micaela is working to tell the YVC story this summer. She is a senior public relations major at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri, and desires to work for a nonprofit or ministry organization someday. Here is what volunteering means to her.

Last fall I discovered the meaningful impact that a volunteer experience can have on my own self-growth. Not only did I have the chance to serve others while I volunteered, but I also developed vital leadership, communication and problem-solving skills.

Most importantly, I formed relationships that influenced me in ways I never knew were possible. What is the result of combining six college students, a tattered guitar, and a group of senior citizens?

A new worldview.

Nodaway Nursing Pic (Jessica & Carmeka)
No Ordinary Class Assignment

I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Nodaway Nursing Home in Maryville, MO, as part of a class service-learning project. There was a total of six students in my group, and I was put in charge of organizing our volunteer efforts. When I contacted the nursing home activities director to ask what we could do for them, she said that they simply need people to spend time with the residents. Some of my group members felt uncomfortable about this certain volunteer opportunity, and one voiced her concern that we would not be able to relate to the residents. “What could we possibly have to talk about?” she said. “This is going to be awkward.”

Making the First Connection

In my experience with volunteer work, I have discovered that music is a universal language that can bridge gaps between groups of people. It seems to allow people to relate with one another, regardless of age or background. I thought it might help my group connect with the residents if I brought my guitar and sang a few songs to start us off. After playing some of my favorites in the nursing home’s dining area, I began to receive a flood of song requests. Artists included Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, and Elvis. The dining room came to life. Some residents rolled their wheelchairs closer to get a better look, others stood up and danced, and a few sang along. One gentleman by the name of Jim insisted that I learn to sing “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin and perform it the next time we came to visit.

YVCKC - elderly project from 2000s
Lessons Learned from Volunteering

As a group, we began to work out a system for when we would visit the nursing home. We paired off and split up, visiting one resident at a time. Each evening on the drive back to campus after our nursing home visits, my group members would gush about the stories that they had heard from the residents. Everyone wanted to share a life lesson that they had learned. Stories of love, war, happiness and pain. How the resident that they visited had overcome great trials, and what an inspiration they were. We slowly began to realize that the experience was becoming much more than just another class assignment. These people were now our friends.

The impact that can be made by simply spending quality time with someone is incredible. The activities director told our group that the residents had begun to ask about us in between our visits, and they looked forward to the time that we spent together. Even more so, the volunteer experience helped my team to drastically grow, both as a group and as individuals. We kept referring to the life lessons that we learned from the residents, and I believe that many of us will remember their wise advice for a long time. I had learned how to work efficiently with a group, how stepping outside of our comfort zones can create connections beyond any we can imagine, and that volunteering benefits everyone that is involved.

2015-06-17 13.54.34
Endless Volunteer Opportunities

You do not have to go far in order to find a meaningful volunteer opportunity. There are numerous opportunities in most communities, and sometimes they get overlooked. The need for human interaction is essential for the wellbeing of every individual. It became apparent through our interactions that this opportunity to experience companionship with a number of people from a different generation gave us a unique perspective that could not be easily gained any other way. Just as Harry Chapin outlines in “Cat’s in the Cradle,” spending time with others is essential, and if you allow “Not today, I got a lot to do” to get in your way, you can end up letting life pass you by.

Investing time in others is a way to bless, and be blessed. Take that first step. Volunteer! Escape your comfort zone and allow your personal development to begin.

As a youth, finding quality volunteer opportunities can be a challenge. Connecting with a local Youth Volunteer Corps can help youth engage in their communities and experience self-growth.

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Spotlight on: YVC of Muskogee

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Muskogee Spotlight

With each Youth Volunteer serving an average of 79 hours a year, YVC of Muskogee, OK, is a glowing example of a “small but mighty” Youth Volunteer Corps program. 64 Youth Volunteers served a grand total of 5,070 hours last year, making YVC of Muskogee number one of YVC’s across the nation in terms of average hours served per volunteer.

Service that Exceeds Expectations

What inspires these youth to continue volunteering after their first service project? For many, it’s the discovery that the experience they gain while serving with their local YVC reaches far beyond their initial assumptions.

“Volunteering is really rewarding. I was able to form bonds with people in the community and help them in ways that I never imagined I could,” says Kayla Russell, a current volunteer with YVC of Muskogee.

“Serving with YVC is also very eye-opening,” says Phylisia Mayfield, a Youth Volunteer graduate who now serves as an assistant Team Leader. “When I first started volunteering I didn’t give much thought to the impact I could make, but then I felt like I was actually making a difference.”

Muskogee - Summer 2015
Personal Development

Volunteering has not only allowed these youth to make a positive difference in the lives of various individuals in their community, but it has also made an impact in their own lives.

“Serving with YVC gives you something important to do over the summer that will allow you to gain more life experiences and can even help when deciding your career path,” says Phylisia, who continues to volunteer at Camp Bennett, a camp for children and adults with special needs. Through this volunteer experience, she developed a passion for working with kids with special needs and was inspired to change her major to special education.

An Engaging Experience

YVC of Muskogee has found Camp Bennett to be one of the most popular projects among youth volunteers.

“It is a special environment,” says YVC of Muskogee Director Eileen Van Kirk. We are honored to have so many youth serving with the campers each summer, since each volunteer must go through an interview process and be personally selected by the camp’s director.”

Youth Volunteers serving with Camp Bennett have the opportunity to engage with the campers through activities such as swimming, bowling, archery and horseback riding. The volunteers form friendships with the campers, make memories, and, on occasion, receive marriage proposals.

“It was the last week of adult camp at Camp Bennett and one of the campers gave the Team Leader a note for me. It said ‘Will you merry me. Yes? No?’ The camper had put it in an envelope and signed his name on it and sealed it. It’s now in my scrapbook,” Kayla says. “You get to build awesome relationships with the campers, then you see them in the community and they want to come give you a hug.”

Muskogee - Summer 2015 - The iconic Blue Whale on Rte 66! YVC field trip with Camp Bennett
Creating Better Citizens

The impact YVC of Muskogee has on the surrounding community is widespread, with volunteers working with various organizations and programs, such as Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit, or Project Transformation, a literacy program. Since YVC of Muskogee is hosted by the local Parks and Recreation department, they are able to provide a great programming option for teens who may not be involved in other Parks programs.

“Instead of a program that provides services, we’re a program that grows citizens. We teach them to be a better citizen, to learn more about their community and get involved. We have high quality projects and they give people something to talk about,” Eileen says. “In regards to Parks and Recreation programs, we are able to pick up the slack for a variety of projects, making us an important asset. We really stretch the ability of the different agencies and programs.”

For example, on one such occasion the City of Muskogee was opening a new park with an ice skating rink, and had scheduled a grand opening ice skating event. They ordered hundreds of ice skates, but the order was delayed and didn’t arrive until the day before the grand opening. When they opened the boxes, they realized the skates weren’t laced, which could have led to a crisis. However, since YVC of Muskogee is a part of the local Parks and Recreation, Eileen easily mobilized the Youth Volunteers to lace the skates just in time for the grand opening.

Muskogee - Summer 2015 - 1
Volunteering and Fun Go Together

While many projects allow the volunteers to form relationships with community members, and on occasion may be emotional, YVC of Muskogee volunteers have discovered the importance of having fun in all that they do.

“We have to find the humor in everything that we’re doing,” Eileen says. “We work really hard, but it’s still important to have inside jokes and be able to remember the silly things that happened while volunteering.”

Kayla has learned that, in addition to discovering the joys of serving, those who volunteer with YVC of Muskogee often become role models in the community. “You can show people that they can make an impact like you are, and have fun while doing so,” she says.

YVC of Muskogee has a mighty team of Youth Volunteers, and they continue to grow and become even more so an integral part of the community. The program not only inspires youth to a lifetime of dedication to service, but allows them to form impactful relationships with each other.

“When youth are involved with YVC they know they are part of a community and it gives them a sense of identity beyond high school,” Eileen says. “It is great to see many different types of people from different nationalities and backgrounds finding their commonalities within the purpose of doing our projects.”

Ready to tour some other YVC programs? Check out our previous Spotlights on Baton RougeRacine, St. GeorgeWestern ConnecticutAlpenaAnderson CountyAnn Arbor, and Corvallis.

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Summer Fundraising Idea: Backyard Movie Night

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7.6.15 Fundraising Idea - Backyard Movie Night


Give the car wash shammies a break this summer and host a fun and creative “Backyard Movie Night” to raise funds to attend the YVC Summit in October! Follow these simple steps to make it a night to remember.

The Crowd

Choose a family-friendly movie and then invite as many people as your yard will comfortably fit. Think beyond your YVC group and invite classmates, neighbors, church groups, etc. Let them know to bring their own blankets or lawn chairs. You should provide snacks, drinks and the movie. Let them know all about YVC and how your group hopes to attend the Summit. Charge a nominal “ticket” price of $5 (or adults $10 and kids under 11 are free, etc) or simply ask for donations.

The Logistics

Projecting a movie is simple with a few pieces of equipment. You’ll need:

1. A laptop computer or DVD player

2. HDMI cord

3. Portable speakers (plug into the headphone jack or use Bluetooth speakers)

4. Projector (ask your parents if they could borrow one from work or inquire with churches and libraries about rental options)

5. A light-colored, flat surface such as a garage door or white wall. If you don’t have one, follow the steps below to make your own screen.

  • Attach white (preferably blackout fabric found in craft stores) to 2, 10-foot lengths of 2”x4” wood using a staple gun. Attach an eye-hook to the top of each piece of wood and tie roping 6-8 feet long to each.
  • Place each wood plank in a 5-gallon plastic bucket and fill around with gravel. Stretch the screen taught by moving the buckets away from each other.
  • Tie the ropes to tent stakes and then pull them out tight to stabilize the screen.


Place your projector on an even surface and connect it to your DVD player or laptop using the HDMI cord. Be sure to test your movie and sound several hours in advance of your guests arriving.

The Invitations has several free, movie-themed invitations. If you don’t have email addresses for all your guests, a personal phone call has a high success rate. Put flyers in your neighbors’ mailboxes, hang signs on community bulletin boards, and ask churches to add your event to their bulletin. Get creative to get the best crowd!

The Food & Drink

If the movie is the main attraction, the food is a close second. One idea is to go beyond plain popcorn and set up a popcorn bar. Use large bowls to hold the popcorn and provide small cups for scooping it into brown paper bags. Use glass jars full of mix-ins like candy, pretzels, dried fruit, and seasonings, etc. and allow your guests to create their own treats.

Some popular popcorn seasoning combos:

Pizza Flavor (parmesan + oregano)
Cinnamon Sugar (sugar + cinnamon)
BBQ (brown sugar, paprika, cumin, chili powder and salt).

For drinks, you can set out coolers full of water and soda cans or you can create fun summer mixes of your own.  Click here for 25 Party Drink Recipes.

The Decor

Creating a “theater” space in your yard is your chance to get creative. String up lights or lanterns. Pass out “tickets” to each moviegoer. Make signs with big, block letters embellished with dots for a marquee look at your entrance and at the snack/drink table. Turn wooden crates or sturdy boxes upside down and cover them to create little tables to hold your guests concessions. The possibilities are endless.

Be sure to include those little touches to keep everyone happy and comfortable. Provide bug spray, wet wipes for sticky hands and have extra sweaters or blankets on hand in case it gets chilly. If you need help selecting a movie, check out Parenting Magazine’s list of the 50 Best Movie for Kids.

Need more advice? Check out our other post of 10 Simple Fundraising Ideas for Youth. Email Charity Ohlund, YVC Development Coordinator, with any questions.
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