A YVC Experience 15 Years Later

Julia at NCVS

Julia at YVC’s booth at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this summer.

Growing up in the suburbs of Camden, New Jersey, Julia Gumminger never thought twice about having socks to wear. “I had so many pairs of socks I didn’t even wear,” she said.

But when she volunteered with YVC of Camden County as a high school student in the late 1990s, she learned that not everyone had this luxury. Armed with a trash bag full of socks donated by a local department store, she and her team of YVC Youth Volunteers distributed socks to homeless people gathered at a BBQ lunch sponsored by a local nonprofit.

Julia was surprised when people would come up to her with all kinds of stories—so desperate for another pair of socks. “That really struck me—how such a basic need isn’t met,” she said.

Julia first signed up to volunteer with YVC of Camden County sorting food at the local food bank after seeing an ad for YVC in the newspaper. They sorted food all day for most of the summer, providing countless meals for hungry members of their community.

Their horizons were expanded as they went to sections of the city they weren’t used to and met different kinds of people. “As a suburban kid, it was an adventure,” she said. She describes Camden as a very poor city—“Take any bad neighborhood of any city and make an entire city of it,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for volunteer work.” Volunteering with YVC exposed her to new parts of the city outside the suburbs she was used to and gave her opportunity to interact with people she may have never met.

Years later, Julia is living in another urban area in Baltimore, and she’s working to give other youth the kinds of opportunities that broaden their horizons too. She’s an Assistant Program Manager at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University, planning educational enrichment programs for academically gifted and talented high school students and their families.

Through this work, she saw that many of these academically advanced students were aware of problems in the world but didn’t always know how to help, so she spearheaded a service-learning program to give these youth an experience like her YVC experience.

“People just need an extra pair of hands to get things done,” she said. “It might just be an hour a week, but that hour is really important. I don’t believe that age restricts people from volunteering—there are a lot of different kinds of jobs. Little hands and big hands can all do things—it just depends on what people are bringing to the table.”

A big thanks to Julia for her service with YVC and beyond!

Are you a former YVC Youth Volunteer? We’d love to reconnect with you and hear your story. Email Lacey at lhelmig@yvc.org to get in touch with us.