It can get exceedingly hard to find quality time with your kids as they get older. The Young Men’s Service League (YMSL) organization gives teenage boys and their moms the opportunity to spend time together while they serve the community. This past week, every mother and son of YMSL Wildcat Chapter, approximately 200 members, gave the “Ultimate Gift” to the Heritage Farmstead Museum.
The Ultimate Gift is quite simply time and labor – a lot of it. Heritage Farmstead Director of Development Kathy Strobel explained that the young men and their moms devoted “400 man hours to an extensive list of projects which includes building new chicken nesting boxes in the coop; cleaning, prepping and painting the entire perimeter fence of the four-acre museum; cleaning out the historic wash shed, pole barn and ram barn; making signs and stanchions; and doing overall Farmstead cleaning.”
Kathy explained that the staff felt very lucky to be chosen as the Ultimate Gift recipient. “Many of these boys visited the museum as a part of their 3rd grade curriculum with PISD, and it’s wonderful they have such fond memories of their experiences here that they want to give back.”
Walker Stradley and Zachary Caddell are second-year YMSL members from Clark High School. Walker said he joined YMSL because “it allows me to spend more time with my mom, and it’s a good chance to help the community and bond with my friends,” with Zachary almost exactly echoing his sentiments. Peyton Thornton is a fourth-year member from Plano Senior High School who said, “A lot of my friends wanted to join, and I wanted to put my time to good use by helping others.”
The boys agreed they enjoy helping all of the philanthropies registered with YMSL, but have favorites that mean something special to them. Peyton really loved helping to organize the food at Minnie’s Food Pantry so that families could come through and find what they needed; he liked “to know I made a difference and made their day a little better.”
Young Men’s Service League is a non-profit organization started in Plano in 2001 by Pam and Julie Rosener with the goal of providing service to others in need in the local community while helping moms stay close with their teenage sons. The Wildcat Chapter was formed in 2009. Last year, the chapter volunteered more than 3,800 hours and donated over 500 wish list items to those in need in Plano and the surrounding communities.
YMSL is open to young men starting 9th grade, with the intention that each student commits through all four years of high school. Its aim is to teach the young men how to help others, but also about relationships and themselves as individuals. It also aims to empower the mothers, to show them how to become strong leaders. Every mother and every son has a different leadership role every year.
Mom Leah Stradley says the best part of participating in the program with her son Walker is the drive home after volunteering together. She says they chat about “how we made a difference in people’s lives, knowing that we are touching lives within our community. And especially we talk about how we take the view off ourselves and instead focus our view on others.” Mom Jennifer Caddell learned that other young men in her neighborhood were signing up for YMSL and wanted to serve with her son Zachary because “it’s extra time with him; he’s a captive audience.”
There’s no doubt that learning to be a good citizen is a lifelong learning process. The fact that these young men regularly take time away from busy school, sports and social activities to spend time helping others speaks volumes about the power of this program.
More photos of Ultimate Gift at Heritage Farmstead Museum:Young Mens Service League > Heritage Farmstead Museum >