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By Debbie Anderson March 23, 2021 May 7th, 2021 No Comments

Better Together

By Meda Kessler
Photos by Meda Kessler

Paige and Chase Green — along with other moms and sons — find the deeper meaning of community service thanks to the Young Men’s Service League of Southlake

Paige Green and son Chase have their blanket-making system down.

There’s no sewing involved — just the repetitive cutting and tying of strips to bind the fleece fabric together. (The blankets are passed out to the homeless in Dallas.) While the task requires concentration, there’s time for easy conversation about anything and everything. It’s a scene that’s been repeated multiple times as the Greens and other Young Men’s Service League Southlake members have continued their philanthropic efforts, even during the pandemic.

Paige and Chase stock the pantry at Stepping Stones

Paige and Chase work together on no-sew blankets at their Southlake home

Mothers and their boys typically have an inexplicable bond. Those who join the Young Men’s Service League, which started 20 years ago in Plano — have the chance to strengthen those ties and make an impact in the community. The nationwide nonprofit was started to allow moms and sons to serve together and to strengthen and learn leadership skills during the four-year program.

“We’ve lived in Southlake for 14 years,” says Paige, “and things can get competitive for kids. YMSL offers incredible opportunities for Chase and others to grow and learn outside of school.”

Paige herself is the philanthropy chair this year for YMSL Southlake. Chase is a junior who’s a member of Southlake Carroll’s football and clay target shooting teams. He has adjusted to a school schedule that has him in the classroom part time and is applying to colleges (Vanderbilt, Duke and the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin are on his list).

He admits that YMSL is nice to have on his resume, but says it has become part of his life. “My sister was involved in the National Charity League [the group for girls and mothers], so I got to see what she and Mom did together,” says Chase. “It’s also a way to hang out with some of my friends and get projects done as a group.”

Anyone who volunteers — be it for a group-driven project like Meals on Wheels or a more focused effort like a neighborhood food pantry — knows that the pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse. While people might have more time to give to a favorite cause, health precautions have kept them at home and cut off normal outreach. But YMSL families have stepped up and delivered.

YMSL members put together bicycles for a holiday giveaway.

“We are very proud of the legacy we are building in the Southlake community and beyond,” says Dawn Tongish, vice president of communications for YMSL Southlake. “It has been challenging in the COVID era, but our philanthropy leaders have done a great job finding projects to continue our outreach. We have made and donated hundreds of gift baskets and letters to the elderly, our troops and to health care providers.”

The “Blanket Blowout” initiative resulted in the distribution of 130 warm covers to the homeless as part of the nonprofit’s work with Compassion of Christ Ministries. “We typically don’t take photographs, to respect their privacy,” says Paige, “but one man wanted us to take a photo of him with his blanket that he was so excited about. And he wanted us to show it to the student who had made it.”

One of Paige’s many duties is to find and create opportunities for YMSL members (about 100 moms and 120 boys, which includes families with multiple sons in the program). “This year, people have been so eager to help.”

Events have included holiday parades at a Southlake senior center, where they dressed up to amuse and delight the residents. They’ve also made gift baskets for senior citizens and made phone calls to assisted living residents to engage them in conversation. “Projects that involve the elderly teach us all compassion,” says Paige.

The Ultimate Gift project is done in conjunction with Bedford-based nonprofit 6 Stones. YMSL boys put together 90 bicycles to be given away and gift-shopped with their moms for hundreds of families.

Moms and sons load up a truck with supplies for Summer Santa’s Camp in Box program. The items were delivered to 400 families to use in lieu of sending their kids to camp last summer. Photos courtesy of YMSL Southlake

The teens pack lunches into personalized sacks for GRACE Grapevine’s Feed Our Kids program.

“Our young men are greatly impacted seeing all of this, because they see the lives being changed throughout, especially at the Feed Our Kids events,” says Tongish. “They see the young children approach and receive meals. They know these children would go without if it wasn’t for the meals provided that day.”

Paige says that while the boys are required to work with multiple philanthropy groups in order to learn different skills, they eventually develop favorites. One is RISE Adaptive Sports, a group devoted to making activities such as boating and water skiing available to persons with physical challenges.

And YMSL’s training extends beyond hands-on work. There are monthly meetings with guest speakers, and YMSL members must serve on leadership committees.

Paige is a proud and grateful mom. “It’s rewarding to spend time with your son and see him understand the importance of helping others and enjoy the good feeling it brings. And he helps with so many things that aren’t included in his regular hours. That’s when you know they understand what YMSL is about.”