Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Boys on Break

This week was a jolt as the girls and I headed back to school. Teenagers have a hard time adjusting to early wake-up, but I figured since we stayed home during the holiday they would be rested and ready to go. We bundled up and I headed to the Attendance Office, while they greeted their teachers with bleary eyes. That morning, I was disheartened to hear about a student I know well, who had found some mischief over the break and gotten into big trouble. However, later that morning I was reminded of the many ways our students do more good than harm.

One passionate student told me with fire in his eyes all about the family volunteering trip he took to Costa Rica with Global Citizens, and he wanted to endorse the organization. I asked him to write about it for our upcoming community service magazine. I thought about the difference between him and the troubled teen, wondering what motivates young people to make a positive impact instead of the opposite. The factor is boredom; when teens are bored, trouble often ensues--take it from a single mom who's been there. I remember all of the Winter Breaks with my son Brody, and a compelling need to keep him busy!

There were other teen volunteers over the break who contacted me to let me know of their progress; their self-confidence and sense of purpose was apparent. Jake and his club, American Disaster Relief, sold $600 worth of hot chocolate at Christmas Tree Lane ( to make their goal of $1000 to help rebuild New Orleans. Every little bit counts, and sometimes just the effort of organizing is enough to stay engaged in the community and doing good. Here is Jake's account:

It was at the corner of Fulton ave [Christmas Tree Lane] and
Seale ave for the three days (from 6 till 9 each night) before

We bought about $60 of hot chocolate (about 600 cups worth) and
cookies and opened up a booth. We had a hot chocolate making station
in my house, where about 3 people made about a gallon of hot chocolate
ever half hour. We put it in thermoses that people donated for the
time, and sold them for a dollar each to walkers and cars.

We actually opened up a drive through on the last day. We made $600
total, and plan on making a larger donation (maybe $1000) to common
ground relief down in New Orleans to rebuild the lower ninth ward.

We could have used more volunteers to open up another station. I think
we did very well though, compared to last years $200. We are
definitely doing it next year.

Way to go, guys! You could have sat around texting and playing Xbox, but chose to reach out instead.
On the other hand, Charles is a swimmer who wasn't sure he would have much time to do more than swim, eat, and sleep over the break, due to long workouts in the pool. Surprisingly, I was greeted via email on Sunday night, the last day of break, with news that he had worked with his mom to create eight linked pages to publish as part of our database of student volunteer activities. Where he found the time, I'll never know but I'm very grateful nonetheless. The work by Charles and his mom, Wen-Jun, will allow us to share unique opportunities for teens and their families to do good works in the community. Since many formal volunteer activities have an age requirement, our students get very crafty in pursuing their passions through community service. Now we can capture all of that and publish it. Good work, Charles, your passion for all things techie makes a difference!

Sometimes what it takes is the spark of personal interests to keep teenagers on track and out of trouble. My son Brody found his passion in football, but he also learned to serve by pursuing an Eagle Scout badge when he was sixteen years old. He designed and built several large wooden toy boxes, with hand-painted sport-motif designs, for a local children's shelter. Last I checked those toy boxes still stored sporting goods and other supplies for the short-term residents awaiting foster homes. Another boy in my neighborhood completed his Eagle project over the Winter Break this holiday season, designing and building hanging racks and shelves for the Wardrobe, a PTA-run facility in our district to provide snow clothing rentals and free clothing assistance to families in need. Spencer's project completely consumed his vacation, and his parents' time as well. He even missed a family wedding out of state to complete the task; that's dedication. He enlisted the help of his family, his water polo teammates, and his friends; anyone with time on their hands was recruited to cut wood, sort or hang clothing.

As I stopped by the Wardrobe today and revisited the sparkling end result of one teenage boy's effort to do good, I realized how many others like him took the time to reach out when a few others were bored and possibly getting into trouble. Luckily at Paly, I'm exposed to so many of these types of students that all I can do is smile when I think of their energy, creativity, and purpose. There is no limit to what boys can accomplish when motivated to share their talents!

Check out These Cool Volunteering Ideas

  • Hot Chocolate Sales and Other Fundraising Connections:
  • Techie Volunteers Needed:,
  • Family volunteer travel and international grassroots projects:,
  • The virtues of Scouting, Volunteer Outcomes Study:


Comfort Socks said...

Dear Bina
I would like to introduce Comfort Socks as a way people can easily help homeless people and families.

Comfort Socks is a 501(c)3 public charity that provides new socks to homeless shelters all across the United States.
Aside from the obvious hygiene benefits of new socks for homeless people and families, our mission is one of Comfort. We believe that new socks simply feel good, and will help tend to the soul as well as the body of someone going through a difficult time.

Comfort Socks welcomes volunteers. To learn how you can help, please visit our website @

Thank you for acting on the compassion in your heart and stepping forward to help others.

Theresa Tese
Comfort Socks

Megan Keane, TechSoup Community Manager said...

Thanks Bina for the inspiring post and mention of TechSoup. In particular, techies looking to help nonprofits can do so by answering questions in our forums: and if you are on Twitter, monitoring the #dyb hashtag.

Darren said...


Thank you for listing the groupery amongst your resources for volunteer groups. We're humbled by all the amazing accomplishments our volunteer group leaders are able to realize with our platform.

Founder & President

Lori said...

Whoops - THANK YOU!!

Thanks Bina, for including VolunteerSpot on your list of Good Works Tools!! We're thrilled to be supporting your readers and community!

(Don't know how I missed it...=))

Lori Krein
VolunteerSpot, DOING GOOD just got easier!

Paly American Disaster Relief Club said...

Thanks for mentioning our Christmas Tree Lane fundraiser in the post!

We donated $1000 dollars last weekend to Common Ground Relief in New Orleans through home depot cards which they requested. They were very excited when they got the shipment!

Not more than three days later, the earthquake struck in Haiti. Besides putting up fliers all over campus on Thursday telling students how they can donate money via text message, we are deciding on how we want to help with relief efforts in Haiti.