Webster’s dictionary defines volunteerism as “the principle of donating time and energy for the benefit of other people in the community as a social responsibility rather than for any financial reward”. This definition, however, doesn’t begin to define the profound impact a volunteer can have on the lives of others. Rebecca McLaughlin is a former Alexander Youth Network volunteer, who made a life changing impact on the children she mentored while they were receiving services at Alexander.
Recently, Rebecca was back on campus to present Alexander with a $2500 check from the Crane Fund for Widows and Children. During this visit she shared pictures and stories of some of the children she mentored. Rebecca remains in close contact with her mentees and is still very much a part of their lives. Read Rebecca’s own words on what being a volunteer is all about for her:
“From the moment of my first introduction to AYN through my employer, I was hooked. Given the opportunity of sponsoring a child at Christmastime, I eagerly flocked to the mall armed with a wish list in hopes of fulfilling each and every wish. From this list, I could somewhat piece together my sponsored child’s interests and personality. When the day came for the children to visit the office & open their gifts, the excitement level in the room was off the charts. To see the little boy assigned to me open his gifts of choice, a football and cowboy hat, lit a fire in me that I didn’t know existed. This soon led to my mentoring seven girls and one boy in a span of 13 of the most rewarding years of my life. I have continued my relationship with four girls and the boy, and had the privilege of experiencing their self-discovery, personal growth, and countless milestones. The power of taking an interest in a young life, providing stability, and believing in that child is truly amazing and everlasting.”
This kind of passion and dedication makes a tremendous difference to our kids. Here’s what one of her mentee’s had to say about “Ms. Reba”:
“My name is Kyra and I am 25 years old. Having Rebecca as my mentor is the very best thing that has happen to me. She has been there for me since I was 7 years old. She is not Rebecca or Reba, but Godmother to me. She has never left my side when I went to mental hospital. She came to spend time with me. We are a family. We do a whole lot of fun things together. We even went to Tiger World, one summer. It was the best time. I also learned what self-harm can negatively impact relationships. She showed and taught me that I was not only hurting myself but her and my parents as well. I enjoyed every minute we get to spend together. We always laugh and talk about things. I know I can rely on her for support and someone to talk with when I have a problem. If II could sum what my godmother means to me in five words it would be trustworthy, loving, supportive, caring, and understanding. That is the characteristic my godmother has and so many more. I love her and respect her. She means more to me than anything in the world, besides my parents.”
We feel so blessed to have amazing volunteers like Rebecca in our Alexander community and are thankful for her many years of dedication and service to the children in our care.
According to the Mayo Clinic there are also significant health benefits to volunteering, including:
- Decreases the risk of depression
- Helps you live longer
- Reduces stress
- Gives one a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills
- Help you to meet others and develop new relationships
- Keeps you physically and mentally active
Not only does volunteering have profound health benefits for the individual, it also increases the success of treatment in the children we serve. They learn to trust others and enhance their ability to make meaningful connections with other people. By practicing the tools they are learning in a safe and nurturing environment with a trustworthy adult, our kids begin to understand what healthy relationships look like and the benefit of making real connections. You can also make that magic happen for one of our children. Right now, there is a “Kyra” at one of our programs that you can bring hope and healing to today.
If you are interested in volunteer opportunities, either individual or group, please contact Ashley Nieves, firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 704-227-9115.