by Jennifer Yos
LANSING, Ill. (June 30, 2019) – Parents familiar with the Patti Leach Youth Center at 18123 Burnham Avenue know the facility offers a variety of fun social activities, recreational equipment, and comfortable spaces that appeal to grades 6 to 12. But the Center also offers its members a way to give back to society through their YES (Youth Engaged in Service) Club.
YES Club member Alexis Williams explains the purpose of the club: “Yes Club is where you volunteer to get rewards, and we have points, but we volunteer because, you know, we love to help the community!” Youth Center Director Aneisha Titsworth adds, “[Yes Club] is geared around service learning projects.”
Soles for school
Titsworth was familiar with the Share Your Soles Foundation, which organizes shoe drives and other events that provide shoes for impoverished children and adults in many areas of the world. She asked her YES Club members if they were interested in hosting a shoe drive. “I really wanted the kids to have a project that did not require a lot of supervision—that was minimal input of staff—so I asked them about the idea. I thought it would be great for us to do something for the summer, prepping into the school year, so [that] by the time our shoes get into rotation to wherever, whoever needs [them] will have a nice pair of shoes for school.
“So I asked the kids if they wanted to do it. They all seemed excited and jumped on the bandwagon. I told them we were going to do it during the month of June. I said nothing else, and I was very proud of both Serenity and Alexis the first day when they came in with big black garbage bags full of shoes, on their own, without any reminders, or anything. So I was very proud of them.”
Worth and value
The drive was officially over at the end of June, and the club had already gathered 25 pairs with a week left to go. Share Your Soles Foundation requires that donated shoes be new or gently worn and not more than 5 years old because shoes deteriorate quickly thereafter. YES Club members get shoe donations, help sort the shoes, match them up, and make sure the soles are clean. Titsworth wants kids to understand that things we might consider useless can be of value to others.
Share Your Soles has a warehouse at 11202 S. Cottage Grove in Chicago. Director Titsworth plans to organize a field trip there in July, and YES Club members will package the shoes they collected.