Each year thePeninsula YMCAprepares for theirBright Beginningscampaign. This effort is a community-wide outreach program in all of their markets designed to ensure that children have the supplies they need to return to school. They do this by hosting shopping days in each market where volunteers are paired with students, whose parents have applied to the program.
The volunteers are provided with a list of the student’s sizes and a budget to pick out school clothes. Together, the volunteer and student go through the store and pick out items that match the list. Then each child is also given a coat and a backpack (prefilled by the YMCA’sBackpack Buddy program) with grade-appropriate school supplies.
“I helped for the first time last year,” said Chesapeake Bank’s own Sherry VanLandingham. “I have to say it was the most rewarding experience I’ve had in a long time. Walking with the children, talking with them, and seeing their face light up at getting something new is a gift. It’s great to be a part of that!”
The supplies and clothing provided for the children are funded by donations through members of the community and organizations. The YMCA targets to provide for 1,000 children each August with no cost to the family.
When you donate to this cause, you know that you’re making a difference in a child’s life, but seeing them face to face has such a powerful impact. You get to know them and to hear their stories and see them eagerly pick out things that they know their peers will have at school. Their faces beam!
“It was humbling to me because so many in our community struggle to obtain minor necessities, such as socks or a belt,” said employee Melissa Hicks.
When you volunteer, you know that you’re making a difference, but it’s a two-way street. The volunteer leaves touched by the experience as well.
“From where they stand, I am there to help them, but each and every time I participate, I walk away with so much more than I showed up with,” said Renae Williams, of Chesapeake Payment Systems. “These little people have no idea how impactful my time with them is for me.”
Another employee, Stephanie Tiller (shown far left), says that one of her students still recognizes her and runs up to talk to her every time they see each other. But all of our employees' experiences sound similar. This opportunity touches everyone.
School is quickly approaching. There are still a few shopping days left for this year. If you are interested, please contact the rep from your desired region, below. We hope you do because as you can see, this event truly is all about community.