Community Activists Cite Poor Volunteerism Among Memphis Youth

(Memphis) Robert Gurley is working with volunteers from around the country to clean up blight in elderly people`s yard in Southwest Memphis.

He says he would love for teens in the community to step up, but they won’t, “Work is not going to hurt you.  You may be sore the first day, but if you keep at it you`ll feel better.”

Gurley says some teens walked by while they were working and assumed the volunteers were in jail and doing community service, “They mentioned, said look, are you all in jail? Because see that`s the mentality we have. I guess they thought to work you have to be incarcerated,”

Mark Dean is the executive director of Volunteer Mid-South and says the disconnect between young people and volunteerism could be because they don`t have a role model who gives back, “I think it`s actually seeing someone they know volunteer and give it away for free which is an equation that`s tough for some people.”

Dean says many young people volunteer because they get school credit for it and it looks good on their college applications, but he says if a young person is not aspiring to those things they may need a little extra encouragement from someone they look up to.

“Being around a model of service is what gets people to see it`s something you do, not something other people do,” said Dean.

Gurley says if teens were busy volunteering and making the community a better place to live they wouldn’t have time to get mixed up with drugs, gangs and other unproductive activities.

It is his hope the city will set up a program to attract volunteers and teach them to give back to those who need it the most.

“Making service cool and finding the right person to make it seem cool in your community might be what the key may be,” said Dean.

If you would like to get involved April 30th Volunteer Memphis will have a Service and volunteer day at the main library on Poplar.

Teens will have the chance to talk with non-profits here in Shelby county and learn about volunteering and how they help.

Volunteer Memphis is sponsoring this and says it could be an important step in breaking the chain of someone who equates volunteering with being in jail.

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