June 8, 1987: The First Day of YVC

 

YVC’s President and Founder David Battey in 1987.

People ask when I thought YVC was going to be a success. They are surprised when I am able to pinpoint a day and time—Monday, June 8, 1987, at 5:30 p.m.

You see, that was the first day of service for the 47 high school youth who had signed up to be in the brand new Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City.

A lot had gone on right up to that June day—the United Way Volunteer Center had stepped forward to sponsor the project, six nonprofits had developed summer service projects, a very diverse group of teenagers had signed up to be on four-week projects,and the overnight team-building camp had been a success.

My main question after the first day of service was very basic and kind of important—would any of the teens come back for a second day? I needed to know before Tuesday, June 9, 1987.

So I went up to my room at my parents’ house in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. The same room that had been mine since I was seven years old; the same one that my parents thought it was time for me to move out of as a 24 year-old man.

In a time before cell phones, text messages, caller ID and call waiting, I knew what I had to do. I had to call a few of the Youth Volunteers and see how their days went.

I looked over the roster of names and with some trepidation decided to call Andi Prevost. My trepidation had nothing to do with Andi—she was a nice young woman from a public high school in suburban Kansas City. My trepidation came from how she would respond to my question—How was your day? (I didn’t feel like I should couch the question as bluntly as “Will you be coming back to be a part of YVC tomorrow?”)

Her mom got Andi on the phone, and as nonchalantly as I could, I asked my question. As only a high school girl can, she gushed about her day. She talked about the kids at the inner-city community center where she had volunteered, she talked about her Team Leader, she talked about the other teens on her team… On and on she went with little prompting from me. I’m not sure how many questions I could have formulated for Andi; I was overwhelmed in a way that doesn’t happen often in life. Her enthusiasm for service and for doing so with a diverse team of peers was validation that YVC was going to work. I knew then that Youth Volunteer Corps was going to be a success.

My conversation with Andi had energized me. I went on to call another Youth Volunteer that evening, and another and another. The responses were so heartwarming and inspiring, whether they came from boys or girls, public school kids or private school kids, those who lived in the inner city or suburbs, those who did human service projects or those who did physical service.

I never tire of talking to young people about their service with YVC. Indeed, I have been doing so for 25 years now. No matter how long I am blessed enough to hear the energy and idealism in a youth volunteer’s voice, I will never forget that call to Andi Prevost on Monday, June 8, 1987, at 5:30pm.