Day-to-day life during the pandemic has been spreading teens thin across the United States. This spring, teens must continuously adapt as they navigate remote learning, a virtual college admissions process, and missing all of the typical graduation events and celebrations. However, amidst all of the challenges, teens at Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB) have heightened their focus on serving others and making a difference in their community.
“We feel a responsibility to take action and help those who are less fortunate than us,” explained Oasis, a senior at Yawkey Club of Roxbury and Ready to Work Fellow. “The pandemic has been hitting our communities extra hard, and we all decided enough is enough, it’s time to get down to business and do something to make life better for the people around us.”
Oasis and other Fellows in Ready to Work, BGCB’s workforce readiness initiative, have coordinated their collective desire to help others by establishing the subgroup Ready to Serve. “The purpose of Ready to Serve is to make a difference and advocate for marginalized members in the communities of Greater Boston and Chelsea, and also within society as a whole” added Emily, who is also a senior at Yawkey Club of Roxbury and Ready to Work Fellow.
“As our Fellows have been focused on developing skills and visions for their future careers, they have recognized that community outreach and service are necessary components to becoming active, engaged, and capable leaders,” explained BGCB Director Dana Smith, who is leading Ready to Work alongside BGCB Trustees Lynn Bogle and Jill Inches.
The Story Behind Socks in a Box
Ready to Serve’s first service project, Socks in a Box, is aimed at collecting socks, an essential item for members of Boston and Chelsea’s homeless population. Ready to Work Fellows have set up and decorated collection boxes at different BGCB Club locations, including Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club, Charlestown Club, Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club, Mattapan Teen Center, Yawkey Club of Roxbury, and Edgerley Family South Boston Club.
“One of the key goals of this group is to connect all of the different locations across the BGCB network with each other and with the homeless population. The collection boxes we have placed in all of the Clubs are designed to catch the eyes of parents and guardians who enter and exit Clubs while picking up their children,” explained Oasis. “While these boxes are now a part of our Club lobbies, we don’t want them to fade into the background and become a forgettable detail.”
Clubs are currently collecting socks from Club visitors on an ongoing basis and are accepting pairs as donations based on a couple of key criteria: all pairs must be new and must be one size fits all. Additionally, Clubs will be accepting other items like hand sanitizer and school supplies.
For Emily, this project is a continuation of her own personal mission to serve. “When I was younger, one of my friend’s families lost everything in a fire. I collected bags full of toys and clothes and things to give to her. It meant a lot to me to be able to help her,” she explained. “Giving back has been a part of who I am and being able to take the lead on a service project like this is incredibly meaningful for me.”
For Oasis, this project connects with her past experience with housing insecurity. “I have memories from when I was younger and feeling worried about not having clothes to wear or socks to put on underneath my sneakers. Now, as someone who is privileged to not have to worry about this, I am determined to use my voice to help make someone else’s life less challenging.”
The Future of Ready to Serve
The Socks in a Box Drive will end in April, and once the teens of Ready to Serve have a full count of donations, they will select which homeless shelter(s) they will donate their collection too.
“As of right now we are putting a hard stop at the end of April,” said Emily. “Depending on how many pairs we have, we will select a shelter to donate to. Ultimately, we are hoping to get enough socks to donate to more than one shelter.”
However, plans for service projects beyond Socks in a Box are already under way. “This is just the beginning,” explained Oasis. “Think of this as our first test run for fundraising. We plan to move beyond just collecting socks and scale our efforts to make an even greater impact.”
Looking for ways to support our work? Make a gift today!