Sometimes a seemingly small decision has a big impact. At the South Shore YMCA it all started with the idea for a T-shirt – a shirt that would help others distinguish the volunteers from the staff.
Two years ago the YMCA’s volunteer program was in shambles. It had only 15 volunteers. “We began our endeavor with nothing more than a blessing that we could run with this and nothing more than the determination that this was something that needed to be done,” recalls Colleen Belcher, who was part of the team charged with reinvigorating the YMCA’s volunteer program.
All of the core value colors were being worn by staff at that time so Colleen and her group settled on the color of orange for the volunteers’ shirts. Little did they know how inspiring the orange shirt would become. Since Colleen was the director of the Youth and Family Department they decided to start there to recruit volunteers.
It was simple. As a child graduates from the Playroom/Childwatach area at age seven, they could fill out a volunteer application, attend orientation and then receive their shiny nametag and orange volunteer shirt. A few children enrolled as volunteers. As the number of orange shirts brightening the hallways increased, so did the interest of other children aspiring to claim their status as a YMCA volunteer with the coveted orange shirt.
Word spread and today there are 477 registered program volunteers at the South Shore YMCA at Mill Pond with nearly 200 youth and teen volunteers. Today all three YMCA branches have come together to create the Possibilities Volunteer Program with hope that they can continue to expand the volunteer program incorporating a family component and helping to cultivate a spirit of service in the young volunteers so that they will continue to make a difference in their community into adulthood.