The Youth Philanthropic Club at St. Mary’s High School is at a crossroads. Planned changes—in the reduction of matching funds—and the tough economic situation facing the nation have converged to create a challenge for the club.
“It’s a transition year,” said Tena Jelinek, YPC faculty adviser. “Penny Wars just finished and this year our numbers from that were down. We might have to rethink it. It’s been very popular in the past, but we’re looking at other ways of fundraising.”
The club started several years ago as part of the El Pomar Youth in Community Service, or EPYCS, program. The goal of the program was for high schools to start their own philanthropic groups and fund grants with money collected through fundraising and matching grants from El Pomar. While early on the matching funds from El Pomar were substantial, the plan was always for the matching funds to phase out and the clubs continue on using their own fundraising. It was just bad timing that the loss of El Pomar coincided with a sluggish national economy, resulting in less giving.
While the situation might discourage some, members of the YPC are rising to meet the challenge.
“I view it as an opportunity,” said Colton Calandrella, YPC president. “We’re one of the only philanthropic clubs still around. Yes, we’ve lost the El Pomar funds but I’m proud that our club still has momentum.”
Overall membership numbers in YPC are also down this year. But this too has actually been a positive, according to Calandrella. He said this year YPC has about 25 members, but they are dedicated members.
“It’s a smaller group, a core group,” Calandrella said. “But we can count on every member to be there for fundraisers and service days.”
During this transition year, YPC has made several changes. To make up for lost funds, they are looking at other ways to raise money including selling T-shirts. The club has also restructured its leadership. In the past there were president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary plus one student representative from each class. Now each class has two student representatives, and the officers have been divided into subcommittees.
“This reorganization has been a big source of the new energy we have,” Calandrella said. “We have more structure now so you know who to go to with ideas. It’s a great environment to accomplish our goals.”
YPC plans to do three to four community service days this school year. Their first such day was with One Nation Walking. During the holiday season, they are planning to do some caroling at an area nursing home. Then there will be one or two days next semester but those haven’t been planned yet.
“We focus on time, talent, and treasure,” Jelinek said. “We don’t have as much treasure now, but we have lots of time and talent.”
Although circumstances may turn YPC’s focus more toward service, the club will continue to award grants with the funds they do raise. Funds from this year’s Penny Wars were given to Fostering Hope. Fostering Hope supports foster parents in a number of ways. A $1,000 check was presented to Fostering Hope on Dec. 4.
Next semester they will plunge into the grant process, collecting proposals from area non-profits just as YPC has for years. Jelinek said that last year YPC members interviewed six agencies out of 20 that submitted proposals. She said the students had two pages of questions to ask each non-profit, including how they are funded and how they serve the community.
“Everyone said how professional the students were and how impressive their questions where,” Jelinek said. “And the students received some good information, which they can use as they’re looking for community service hours.”
Once interviews are done, the YPC members will decide which grants to fund. Last year the group steered away from organizations that had received YPC funding in the past, ones that were outside of the region, and groups that did not work directly with the general public.
In addition to doing community service work and fundraising to give grants, YPC looks for ways to support the student body and to meet needs of those in the SMHS student body. During finals week, for example, YPC provides baked goods for the students during a stressful time. YPC also partners with other SMHS organizations in various activities.
This year YPC also plans to put on a community service fair, which highlights options for community service and is something SMHS parents seem to want.
And even in times of struggle there is still room to dream. Jelinek said the dream of YPC is to do mission work. They would like to do more with Andre House in Phoenix and One Nation Walking. But for now YPC members are serving where they can.
“We’re going to be doing more community service and giving in smaller amounts,” Jelinek said of YPC, “but I think we’re more active over all.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Below, YPC members pose for a picture during their One Nation Walking Community Service Sunday earlier this fall.