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Red Cross gives more than just blood

  • Published
  • By Airman Amber Kelly-Woodward
  • 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The American Red Cross is a very active organization. Some of the volunteerism the Red Cross does includes hosting blood drives, taking care of people when disasters occur, promoting preparedness and taking care of servicemembers. Another opportunity the Red Cross provides is the YouthCorps. 

The YouthCorps has been around since 1917 when the Junior American Red Cross was established. The YouthCorps at Scott Air Force Base allows children ages 13-18 to volunteer to help supervisors around base. Most of the jobs entail basic clerical work; however, depending on the skill level of the child, they could work with very hands-on tasks. 

The YouthCorps not only gives children the opportunity to experience the work force, but it also benefits supervisors because during summer months manpower is often decreased with deployments and vacation leave, said Stephanie Pitt, the Scott Red Cross Station Manager. 

The youth coordinators try their best to match volunteers with jobs that they show interest in. It is a free way for children to experience a career field that could lead them further into pursuing it or realizing that it is not what they expected. 

Volunteers donate an average of two days per week. For high school juniors and seniors the numbers are usually higher. Although it is a commitment, the youth coordinators encourage volunteers to enjoy their summer. One lesson volunteers learn is that it is acceptable to make plans, they just have to notify their supervisors ahead of time. 

"Many supervisors request volunteers by name every year, said Mrs. Pitt. " The children like that, I think they would work 40 hours a week if they could." 

Prior to becoming a volunteer, the teen and at least one parent are required to attend an orientation. In this orientation, volunteers agree to follow the rules: be respectful, be honest about making mistakes, be punctual, keep all information learned at the job confidential and use the chain of command. 

"Many kids come back saying 'this was the best summer ever'," said Mrs. Pitt.
It takes a different type of child to choose to volunteer rather than watch television all day during their summer, the children that choose to volunteer are usually top notch, said Mrs. Pitt. 

"Volunteering instills a sense of community - giving back is so important at a young age, when they are susceptible to being involved in a lot of things, it gives them a sense of pride," said Barbara Gilstrap, Youth Chairman of Scott American Red Cross. 

The YouthCorps receives an average of 45 volunteers per year. The problem this year is not in finding volunteers, but in finding enough supervisors who will take a volunteer. When not enough supervisors apply for the YouthCorps, volunteers have to do jobs that may not have an interest in, or be turned away all together. 

"We want the kids to get a good volunteer experience or else they will not volunteer again," said Mrs. Pitt. "We find that most kids who volunteer, volunteer all their life." 

If for some reason a volunteer and supervisor do not work well together, the volunteer is moved to a different supervisor, said Mrs. Gilstrap. 

Parents also gain from their children volunteering by knowing they are helping their child's future by allowing them to do something meaningful with their time. 

John Paul, a recent graduate of Belleville East High School, is one volunteer for the YouthCorps. This summer will be his fourth consecutive summer as volunteer. 

"Initially, my reason for volunteering was to gain experience in a medical environment because I wanted to become a doctor," said John. "After the first summer, however, I realized that volunteering itself can be rewarding. My goal since then has been to help people." 

"I heard about this program from a friend who volunteered in the ER at the base hospital. It was the first opportunity that I encountered to volunteer in a medical environment," he said. "My other reason for choosing this program was that I would have the opportunity to help military families. Both of my parents served on active duty for many years, and I have grown up on and around military bases. It is very important to me to help those who pledge to defend our nation, and to help their families." 

John was accepted to Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass., for the 2008-2009 school year. 

"Volunteering definitely helped me in the college admissions process," he said. "Harvard recently published statistics on the academic records of its applicants and thousands of those students had top grades and SAT scores. I believe that my volunteer experience set me apart by showing that I have a sense of civic responsibility and that I have interests outside of school." 

He volunteers to meet his volunteer requirement for the National Honor Society, but he goes above the hours required because he also enjoys volunteering during his summer vacation. 

"I don't think that enjoying the summer and volunteering have to be separate endeavors, he said. "I usually volunteer three or four days per week, so I have time to prepare for the upcoming school year, to read, to exercise and to spend time with my family." 

John was also recognized as Volunteer of the Quarter for July-September in 2005.
For all youth volunteers the Red Cross will host a party Aug. 1 from 7-9 p.m. at the Fitness Center Pool. Family members and supervisors are also invited to give recognition to the volunteers. All volunteers receive an award and supervisors can recognize any extraordinary volunteers. 

Summer vacation for most kids means sleeping in, watching television and playing video games. A few kids in and around the Scott community, however, chose to donate their time to the American Red Cross YouthCorps helping out on base.