David Even looked around during Orchard Park village events like the annual Caribbean Night in July, and it appeared to attract an older crowd.
“I find I’m the only kid that helps out at events,” he said. “We always have issues finding volunteers.”
Now that he’s in charge of finding volunteers, he has come up with a solution.
The 17-year-old, with a little help from his father, created a website, OPcommunityservice.org, that matches groups needing volunteers with youths wanting to contribute to their community.
“The web site is supposed to connect kids,” he said.
The Orchard Park junior works part-time at Arthur’s Hardware Store, serves on the boards of the Youth Court and the Youth Bureau, and takes two AP and three honors courses.
He also finds time to volunteer at events such as the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce’s Caribbean Night, a Taste of Orchard Park and the village ice cream social.
“It’s a much bigger job than people realize, and we rely exclusively on volunteers to make sure events like these run smoothly,” he said.
Town Recreation Director Ed Leak said Even came along with the website at an opportune time. Leak was named director of youth activities in the Youth Bureau this year and was tasked with expanding opportunities to teenagers beyond the Youth Court.
With the increase in special events in the town, there is a demand for more volunteers to get involved, he said, and developing a conduit to reach out to volunteers was the perfect idea.
Leak has recruited corporate sponsors to offer scholarships to the top three volunteers over the course of a year. The leading student volunteer will receive $500 to help defray the cost of post-high school education.
“The Recreation Department will be the agency monitoring it and supporting it. It will continue to evolve in opportunities and corporate sponsors,” Leak said. “The beauty is, they’re going to have a greater variety [of events] to choose from.”
While Orchard Park High School has rescinded its requirement that all students perform community service, students still need to volunteer three hours a quarter to earn a parking pass at school, Even said.
There are other programs in and out of the school that require community service, and there are plenty of local not-for-profit, religious, educational, and Orchard Park town and village government organizations that need volunteers.
“I thought it would be a good way to help kids out and get community service,” Even said, adding “I have had a bunch of people sign up for Caribbean Night already.”