In just its third year, the East Dallas chapter of the Young Men’s Service League completed 3,700 hours of service despite limitations created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I had anticipated us struggling a lot, but people recognized that so many people are hurting,” chapter president Wendy Patton said. “Almost everyone fulfilled their commitment. Lots and lots of people got out and made an effort. I’m extremely pleasantly surprised.”

The Young Men’s Service League is a national nonprofit whose members are teenage boys and their moms. They volunteer together to serve their communities. The local chapter was formed in 2018 by neighbor Amanda Cecil, who had heard about the league from friends in other parts of Dallas.   

“There are few opportunities when they start driving to spend time with them,” said Lisa Deatherage, who volunteers with her sons Dylan and Evan. “This is 20 hours. It’s not just time with them, it’s time serving. That’s a wonderful value to pass on to your children.”

The group started with 75 teens, and 115 have signed up for next year, Patton said. Including moms, there are about 230 full members.

“I hadn’t heard about it, but my mom signed me up,” Woodrow Wilson senior Jay Matney said. “I didn’t think it would be fun, but it felt good to give back. I hadn’t done much community service. I gained a sense of how important it is to support the community.”

The group partners with 24 philanthropies, including CC Young, Juliette Fowler, For the Love of the Lake and more. In a normal year, members might spend time getting to know residents at senior care facilities. This year, they wrote letters because of restricted visitor access. They also partnered with Whole Foods to collect items that were about to expire and take them to Juliette Fowler. When the snow storm hit, a few mothers and sons volunteered to shovel sidewalks so they could be accessed by older adults.

Many service opportunities moved outdoors. The group mulched and tilled the garden at Mockingbird Elementary while students were out of school, and they paired off into family groups and picked up trash at For the Love of the Lake’s monthly shoreline spruce-up.

“A couple of my favorite opportunities got snubbed out because of the pandemic, but I didn’t miss out on nearly as many as I expected” said Andrew Volney, a Lakewood senior who attends the School for the Talented and Gifted. “It’s hard to put service online, but there are opportunities, and the Young Men’s Service League has done a good job of adapting.”

One event that was canceled last year, to the dismay of many young men in the service league, was Special Olympics. Members love serving as timekeepers for the events, but they found other ways to help children with special needs. They volunteered at a Rays of Light drive-thru Valentine’s Day party in which they manned stations with fun activities and prizes for participants.

“It was pretty innovative, the way we decided to continue service projects,” Woodrow sophomore Dylan Deatherage said. “It’s made me a much better person, and it’s more meaningful than doing something with my mom on our own.”

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