Damon A. Williams, Ph.D
How can I make a difference?
What are the ways in which I can make a difference?
These are two questions that I and the dedicated staff members at Boys & Girls Clubs of America are proud to ask ourselves every single day. Not only do these questions serve as guidance
as we develop programming on a national level to support more than 4,100 Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide, they also inspire the devoted Club directors who serve nearly 4 million youth every year in communities and on U.S. military installations around the globe.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that leadership begets leadership. So it seems fitting that these questions should also be put to Club members. Million Members, Million Hours of Service does just that. Service learning is a youth development strategy that integrates meaningful community service with reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, change lives and strengthen communities.
Supported by The Citi Foundation, this ambitious program is giving Club youth and all young community members the opportunity to perform 1 million hours of service within five years by actively volunteering in their own neighborhoods. By engaging youth in community service that caters to their individual passions, the program fosters creativity and a lifelong love for helping others. What better way to create future leaders than by empowering kids and teens to make important decisions that directly affect the lives of others? From saving our planet, to feeding the homeless, to organizing a clothing drive, to planting trees, there are so many imaginative ways Club kids have already given back by participating in Million Members, Million Hours of Service.
We’re well on our way as an organization to achieving 1 million hours of service. But what we need even more is for 1 million Club and community members to participate to help us reach an even greater milestone over the next five years. And that’s where you come in.
Whether you’re involved with a Boys & Girls Club or simply a civic-minded member of your community, we need your help to engage our youth. And there are many ways to get involved through the program’s tier-based learning system.
Tier 1 ensures that every Club member has a service experience based on his or her interests and, as a result, donates 60 minutes of time. This could be anything from starting a letter-writing campaign for overseas service members to creating disaster preparedness flyers for the community. A cooking competition can be a great way to fundraise for a food bank, while a coat drive is a thoughtful way to kick off a winter service project. As Club leaders, there’s no shortage of ways to get members involved.
Tier 2 takes this commitment to an even higher level with youth-driven (and staff-facilitated) learning projects designed by kids and teens themselves. The opportunities are as vast as the imaginations of the youth dreaming them up.
By the time they graduate to Tier 3, our young people are thinking like global leaders, shaping their communities and building a true culture of service.
The long-term effects of Million Members, Million Hours of Service are just as important as the immediate impact it engenders. Studies show that young people who actively engage in public service are ultimately more successful in all areas of life – personally, socially and academically. We’ve already begun to see this happen.
I am invigorated beyond words by the Million Members, Million Hours of Service initiative. There is nothing more fulfilling as a public servant than to see the youth of the very communities we serve give back themselves. Yes, our goal is ambitious. But our future leaders are worthy of such ambition.
As we embark upon another year of service, I invite you to check out the progress we’ve made already at TintUp.com/OneHourEquals. See dozens of photos and posts describing Club members’ service projects and the impact #1hourequals has made in communities.
For a detailed outline on how you can become part of Million Members, Million Hours of Service, visit BGCA.org/mmmhs. It’s fun. It’s meaningful. And it’s something that makes a huge impact. Join us in this vital effort. Help us get 1 million Club members on board in 2015.
Jim Clark, President & CEO
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put that question to parishioners at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., nearly 60 years ago. Today, his query remains relevant and indispensable. I expect it always will. Monday, we’ll commemorate this great American with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. In communities around the country, we’ll honor Dr. King’s legacy by volunteering our service.
My family and I plan to help out by serving meals at a local homeless shelter. Getting our boys involved in their community is important to my wife, Samantha, and me. We want Chase, 11, and Grayson, 9, to understand the value and necessity of making a difference in the lives of others. It’s an important life lesson. It’s also good for them.
Service Spawns Success
Studies show that young people who engage in service do better in school, maintain positive relationships with adults and peers, avoid risky behaviors and are less likely to drop out of high school – and more likely to graduate – than their peers who do not.
Outcomes like these are why Boys & Girls Clubs work to instill a sense of civic responsibility in the kids we serve. Last year, more than 260,000 Club youth participated in service projects to strengthen communities. Those are amazing numbers. Now, we’re preparing to make an even bigger impact on America’s kids and communities.
Millions Making a Difference
Million Members, Million Hours of Service is a new initiative to involve Club kids in service activities year-round. With support from the Citi Foundation, our more than 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs will work to raise members’ awareness of community service opportunities and provide them with resources to undertake projects for their communities.
Our aim is that at least 1 million members will perform 1 million hours of service within five years. It’s an ambitious goal, no doubt. But consider this: If every Club member contributes just one hour of community service each year, we’ll meet that objective. And you might be surprised at what can be accomplished in a single hour.
This Monday, Boys & Girls Club members will be among the millions of volunteers making a difference across our country. What a perfect way to honor Dr. King’s vision of harnessing the power of volunteering and service to transform communities.