Friday, January 4, 2013

Youth Philanthropy Group Visits YWCA

By Stephanie Barr

Over 70 volunteers dedicated their time and holiday spirit to make YWCA Clark County’s 2012 Holiday Shop a success. The Holiday Shop is a one-day ‘shopping’ experience for YWCA program participant to personally select donated gifts for their family members.  Joining this year’s volunteers were Anne Digenis, Donor Services and Grants Coordinator for The Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, and members of their Youth Philanthropy Program. According to the Community Foundation website, the Youth Philanthropy Program gives juniors and seniors in high school the “opportunity to learn more about their community’s needs and about the many different ways in which they can help address those needs.” The members eventually make grant recommendations to the Community Foundation Board of Directors based on the needs they discover through their experiences volunteering.

To support YWCA’s Holiday Shop, Anne and the Youth Philanthropy members wrapped the gifts YWCA program participants selected for their families. I asked Donnie Rhoads, a junior at Columbia River High School and Youth Philanthropy member, about his experience volunteering at the Holiday Shop. “I honestly had a great time,” he said. “I’ve learned that I can do something as simple as wrapping presents to make someone’s day better. I didn’t think that such a small action could have much of an impact on someone’s night.”
Volunteers hard at work.
The generosity of the Clark County community enabled YWCA to provide gifts to 405 people through this year’s Holiday Shop. An essential piece of that generosity is the commitment of volunteers who organize the donations, bake cookies, add an extra bow to a special gift, and smile as they wish YWCA participants “happy holidays.”  Donnie was struck by that as well, sharing, “I liked seeing how much support the YWCA gives to those in need, especially during the holiday season.”

In addition to gift wrapping, Youth Philanthropy volunteers demonstrated flexibility and initiative, stepping in to meet unexpected needs as they arose. For some volunteers that meant accompanying program participants through the shop as they searched for something special for their families. For another it meant carrying a woman’s packages across the street to the bus stop in the rain. The Youth Philanthropy volunteers were willing to look beyond their initial task and seek new ways to make a difference.

In order for the Holiday Shop to feel empowering and respectful to program participants who may be in the midst of crisis, YWCA relies on volunteers to provide welcoming, compassionate service. Donnie expressed his enthusiasm for that dynamic of the Holiday Shop, sharing, “I especially enjoyed being able to talk and be social with the people I was helping.”

“I was able to witness the impact [philanthropy and volunteerism make] firsthand at the Holiday Shop,” Donnie reflected. YWCA staff witnessed a group of young volunteers, passionate to make the holidays a little brighter for families in need.

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