The Los Altos-based Young Men’s Service League Rancho Chapter held its end-of-year Awards and Senior Recognition Banquet last month at the Sunnyvale Community Center, honoring members who have performed community service.
YMSL is a four-year program for mothers and their high school-aged sons, spanning grades 9-12. The Rancho Chapter, founded in 2015 by 10 Los Altos moms interested in engaging their sons in community service, boasts 201 members. The boys and their moms have provided thousands of hours of community service to more than 30 local groups.
At the awards banquet, each class president spoke about his class’ unique experience over the past year. Senior president Ryan Song related how at first his mom got him involved in helping others, but then he took service to heart and learned from his experience. His favorite memories are helping people at the Hope’s Corner food kitchen in Mountain View and gathering produce at local farmers’ markets that would have gone to waste and donating it to the food pantry at West Valley Community Services.
The graduating senior class also presented its group philanthropy project, which included building and planting large planter beds for the Sunny View Retirement Community to beautify and provide sensory stimulation for the memory-care residents at the senior center.
Since its inception, the boys and mothers of the YMSL Rancho Chapter have performed 12,512 hours of community service, including 4,321 in the past year, and devoted more than 350 philanthropic hours in a single day last fall as part of their Ultimate Gift program – gathering and organizing more than 100 large boxes of interview-ready clothing for Dress for Success in San Jose. The donation enables the organization to serve those searching for employment to earn income for their families.
“It’s been an incredible four years for my son and me in YMSL,” said outgoing chapter president Elizabeth Halden. “My son has been so positively impacted by what he’s seen and done as part of YMSL. I’m thankful that we got to spend fun and rewarding hours together helping philanthropies in our community.”
Building life skills
YMSL focuses not only on philanthropic service, but also on leadership and life skills. Each class grade plans out monthly meetings where they bring in speakers or participate in activities such as practicing their interview skills for college, visiting with judges and police leaders who expose them to civic and justice matters or learning how to change a flat tire and do their own laundry. They also explore more serious topics, such as prevention of substance abuse, hazing and sexual assault on college campuses.
The moms get together for presentations on topics such as health and wellness and how to deal with teenagers, as well as to share the trials and tribulations of raising teenage boys.
The mom-and-son teams spend hours serving alongside each other to foster their bond.
Oscar Witt, who received the “Heart of YMSL” award for embodying the spirit and mission of the YMSL Rancho Chapter, has completed more than 125 hours of service in the past year.
“It feels great to win an award, but it’s more about the community than the recognition,” Witt said. “Volunteering for YMSL has made me realize how fortunate I am and how much I can do to help others. It feels great to know that I have helped a child get ready for kindergarten or helped feed a family in need. Volunteering has let me see how much change is possible when we try.”
For more information on the YMSL Rancho Chapter, visit ymslrancho.chapterweb.net.
Sunny Song is president of the YMSL Rancho Chapter.