Whenever he wears his American Red Cross of Augusta Youth Board T-shirt to school, Rickey Jones gets requests for them from classmates, but he has to turn them down.
“You have to earn it,” said Jones, a Westside High School junior and youth board member. “You have to come to events and be active.”
Since 1985, the youth board and its members have been an active part of the volunteer scene in the Augusta area. About 120 high school students are current members. They are required to participate in at least one community service project a month, but many students donate more of their time.
Regular monthly volunteer opportunities are available at the Golden Harvest Food Bank and East Central Regional Hospital Gracewood Campus working with adults with developmental disabilities.
“Every month, we go for about an hour and a half to the recreation room at the (Gracewood) facility. We do puzzles, play games with them. It’s a nice experience,” said Monica Mohanty, a John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School sophomore.
At the food bank, they help sort food, and they’ve worked with the Spooky to Be Hungry food drive. Also, they plan Christmas and Easter parties for foster children. Other nonprofits often call on them when they are in need of dependable volunteers, said Lynn Reese, who is the director of community education and volunteer resources at the American Red Cross of Augusta and has worked with the youth board for 23 years.
Maggie McLeod, a senior at Augusta Preparatory Day School, checks out volunteer opportunities via the board’s Facebook page.
“There are multiple things to do. You can choose things you like to do,” she said.
They help with the adult volunteers with the American Red Cross of Augusta with fundraising and public awareness efforts. Youth board members are planning for two elementary school leadership conferences in April. There will be one conference for second- and third-graders and another conference for fourth- and fifth-graders. They also plan a middle school leadership conference.
Components of the leadership conference include serving others and giving back to the community, and it is one way of recruiting children to be part of the youth board when they are older, Reese said.
“When you start instilling the spirit of philanthropy and giving and caring about the community at an early age, by the time they are older, it is so much a part of who they are that they don’t feel complete unless they are volunteering,” she said.
It opens up doors for them to see more than just their own school and what is happening in their own world, said board President Sabrina Rush, a senior at Westminster Schools of Augusta.
“I’m more open-minded. I’m not just focused on myself,” she said.
In addition to the volunteer opportunities, there are chances for board members to learn leadership skills which will help them as they attend college and beyond.
“I came in as a really shy freshman. I have way more confidence in public speaking,” Rush said.
Reese said there is an application and interview for teens who want to be involved with the board, and there is a waiting list.