As a youth organization focused on service, we spend a lot of time talking about the great service projects youth do all over North America. They feed the hungry, help shelter animals, build wheelchair ramps, and so much more. However, along the way, they also build relationships that help them grow. We also know this is a two-way streest, as youth volunteers improve the lives of the people they serve and the adults who manage their programs.

Around the end of the year, we collect stories and quotes from youth about YVC and the projects they are most proud of. There were two very special stories this year that reminded us that YVC is much more than addressing community needs through service. YVC is a place where relationships have an enormous and lasting impact on the people we become.

For Malorie, it was a reflection about Cindy Rose, her YVC program director.

Cindy has made such an impact on my life. I would not be standing here today without her and her guidance she has given me. From jokes to laughs to tears, she has been there for me. She has been by my side every moment since I have joined YVC, and her amazing personality makes my experience worthwhile. She has never focused on herself, yet, she does so much for others. She pours her heart and soul into every project and meeting we do. Our YVC would not be the same without her there. She expresses her gratitude to us when she is proud or when we have accomplished great things. She has done so much for us, yet we never do enough back. Cindy and her actions are the definition of a leader. She is such an inspiration, and I look up to her. She motivates us in our social and personal lives. The council she leads has helped me gain confidence and make a difference in my community.

 As her retirement nears, I wondered what advice she would give to incoming and present program directors. She says, “Get to know the youth, what they like, and  what they want to volunteer for. Listen to them and be friends with everyone. Make this a super fun experience, as they learn about who they are, where they live, and show them (YVC volunteers) how they really are making a difference in their communities. Make them all feel very proud about what they do!”

For Valencia, she told us about getting hooked on service after hearing a presentation about the program. (One she had not intended to attend!) And becoming an unexpected second-generation YVC volunteer in her family, as her mother was part of the original program when it began 25 years ago. It must have been a sweet surprise when her daughter told her about the program she wanted to join!

I got into YVC kind of by accident.  My school had an afterschool program, I went for Art Class.  One day one of my friends told me and another friend to come and volunteer and help with something for an hour.  When we got to the classroom there was a lady there, which turned out to be Eileen.  She started telling us about YVC.  My two friends left, but I stayed.  I got into YVC the fall of my 7th grade year. My first project was cooking dinner at a church. From that moment on, I volunteered whenever I could.  I have met a lot of people that have been in YVC for one or more years before me that are still in it. 

When new volunteers showed up this year I started feeling old for being here for over four years already, and I’m quite in shock I hit 500 hours this year.  It really started as something to keep me busy, but it has become a part of me.  Fun fact, my mother was a volunteer for YVC when it was started in Muskogee, and she volunteered for two years at the projects we replicated this year for our 25th anniversary, which I think is pretty great. 

We should never underestimate the role relationships play in shaping our lives and the people we become. Maybe this would be a good time to think about someone who changed your life and let them know the impact they made.

 

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