Students lead busy lives. Between homework, sports, music, clubs and spending time with friends it is hard to imagine they have much time to spare. But there is a group of students in Berks County who make time to help the children of Berks County. Berks Youth in Action is a local student volunteer organization dedicated to helping less fortunate children in our area. Check out my article covering their incredible work in our area, originally published in the August issue of Berks County Living!
Putting Berks Youth In Action
Four years ago, Betsy Finneran recognized a need in her community for volunteer opportunities for local teens. With the help of her son Bill, she launched Berks Youth in Action to meet that need. She explained, “I believed there was a need in our community to provide an avenue for teens to lead by example, and help out less fortunate children in Berks County.”
Four years, $112,500 raised, countless children helped
Betsy, Bill and nine other volunteers from Wilson, Berks Catholic and Wyomissing School Districts quickly found their first project. Mary’s Shelter, a service for pregnant women and new mothers, was in desperate need of new cribs. The volunteers went to numerous local businesses and churches asking for donations to raise $3,500 to purchase and construct 22 new cribs.
In 2011, BYIA held its first annual RAVE, a themed dance for students from various school districts. Tickets are purchased for a $30 donation, though many students make larger donations to attend. This year’s theme was Mardi Gras. Mask A’ RAVE had over 500 students from five different school districts in attendance.
With the help of RAVE donations and community involvement, BYIA was able to take on their largest cause to date: raising $65,000 to purchase and install the first adaptive playground in the City of Reading, located at Opportunity House. Since then they have also raised $25,000 to revitalize the Olivet’s Blue Mountain Camp in Hamburg, $2,000 to purchase new television monitors for John Paul II School and provided countless meals for the homeless at Opportunity and Kennedy Houses. Last year the students raised $17,000 to purchase new equipment for the Children’s Alliance Center in Reading, an organization that provides help to children who have been the victims of abuse.
At Berks Youth in Action, the volunteers are in charge
The organization has grown from 9 to 35 students, and has impacted the lives of countless local children. The volunteers are the heart of BYIA, and they have been able to make an incredible impact on the community between homework, sports and clubs.
“They are a truly great group of young leaders. Together we have learned a lot from each other and grown as an organization,” Betsy said of the team.
BYIA is run entirely by the students. Without a strict structure each volunteer can capitalize on their own strengths and contribute in their own way. “I provide the guidance and help find a worthy annual project and they figure out how to raise the money,” Betsy said.
Katherine Finneran, Betsy’s daughter, started volunteering as a freshman. She said everyone gets along very well and works hard together to meet their goals. “The most rewarding part of volunteering is knowing you have helped other kids in our area. It’s also really fun to be a part of a group that works well together and completed some really awesome projects over the past few years.”
BYIA has found no shortage of great causes. “Every year the perfect project seems to fall in our lap. Our only parameter is that the project must involved helping children in Berks County,” Betsy said. Their next project will be raising money to furnish the new Olivet’s teen center in Reading.
If you are interested in volunteering or donating to a Berks Youth in Action cause, please contact Betsy Finneran at firstname.lastname@example.org.