Darien teens Justin Lee and Sarah Smith have been involved with Person-to-Person's Youth Group for many years but are now taking a bigger role in its leadership after being selected to be members of the nonprofit's board.
"The Youth Group has always been an important part of Person-to-Person, but it was always sort of detached from the rest of the organization," said Lee, a junior at Darien High School . The group runs the Emergency Assistance center Thursdays and Saturdays, where people can get food, clothing and other essentials. "They wanted to integrate us with the whole organization and incorporate everyone in it."
Smith, a senior at DHS, said the adult members of the board have not treated them like kids. "They were really looking forward to having us on the board and gave us a warm welcome. They treat us like they would any new board members."
The two teens are busy managing the 30 teen volunteers who come in Saturdays to manage the center. Things can get pretty hectic, with about five families every 15 minutes coming in for help. In the Clothing Center, the volunteers take all the donated clothes and sort them, hang them up and make sure the area is clean and organized. "It takes a lot of manpower," Smith said.
They also help families shop in the Food Pantry, which is stocked with enough food for clients to prepare three healthy meals per day. "We give them the real supermarket experience," Lee said. "They can shop around and select the items they like. It's really flexibly here, which is a real benefit."
The two have learned important leadership skills, as well as gained a sense of compassion by interacting with clients and other volunteers.
"Often times we want to help people in other countries, but we don't realize that there's a real need here," Smith said. "Here we can see our neighbors and the people we help, and it really lets us connect with the community."
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