Thursday, June 28, 2012

Upstart Conejo charity league is for the boys


FUTURE PHILANTHROPISTS—John Hope Bryant, founder, chair and CEO of Operation Hope, speaks with members of Boys Team Charity- Conejo Valley League during the group’s kickoff event in May at CLU’s Lundring Events Center. 
Photo courtesy of Patti Gladstone FUTURE PHILANTHROPISTS—John Hope Bryant, founder, chair and CEO of Operation Hope, speaks with members of Boys Team Charity- Conejo Valley League during the group’s kickoff event in May at CLU’s Lundring Events Center. Photo courtesy of Patti GladstoneGrowing from small conversations among mothers to an organization of 109 members, 13 philanthropies and about 2,000 hours of community service, the Boys Team Charity-Conejo Valley League has become wellestablished in its first year.
“The overwhelming response in our community is more than we could have ever believed,” said co-president Kim Chopp.
The league is part of Boys Team Charity Inc., an organization based in Arizona that teaches young men the importance of serving the community.
In early 2011, Stefanie Wennes, a mother of three boys and co-president with Chopp, realized there was a lack of volunteer groups for young men in the area. She had the idea to start a Conejo Valley chapter of the charity after hearing about BTC from a friend who had children in an Arizona chapter of the organization.

She formed a board of directors comprising dedicated mothers who spread word about Boys Team Charity. By September, the league hosted a kickoff meeting that included 90 young members, officially forming the first California branch.
“BTC is focused on boys and their parents, and there was a gap for that in the community” said Susie Shore, a vice president of philanthropy.
“There is not a league that we’ve seen that works with boys and their parents and helps them find an appreciation for working with various philanthropies and creating that spirit of giving back to the community,” she said.
The group aims to introduce boys in grades seven through 12 to a wide variety of local volunteer organizations. So far, chapter members have volunteered with 13 philanthropies, including Habitat for Humanity, Casa Pacifi ca, Coastal Cleanup, Conejo Valley Little League Challenger Division, Conejo Recreation and Park District, Manna and Many Mansions.
“It has opened me up to the world of philanthropy because it’s the first time I’ve served a bunch (nonprofits),” said Nick Shore, president of the league’s class of 2015.
BTC divides its members into classes based on grade level. Nick, an Oaks Christian student, was elected president of the sophomore class in May.
One of Nick’s goals is to raise the members’ enthusiasm for volunteering.
Boys in grades seven to nine must volunteer a minimum of 15 hours per year and those in grades 10 through 12 at least 10 hours per year.
“Sometimes, I would like to stay home and play video games . . . but it’s better to give back to the community,” said member Christian Wennes, 12, a student at Oaks Christian.
Because he enjoys volunteering, he plans to exceed the 15- hour requirement this summer.
“I used to never do charity work except with church, and now I can do charity work on my own with the organization. There (are) a lot of events I can attend, and I try to compete with my friends to see who gets more hours for fun.”
In addition to offering the boys opportunities for philanthropy, the charity league provides an avenue for a diverse group of youngsters to work together. Its members come from 12 local public and private schools, including Westlake High School, Oaks Christian, Newbury Park High School, Oak Park High School, Thousand Oaks High School, Chaminade College Preparatory School, Viewpoint School, Los Cerritos Middle School, Malibu High School, Colina Middle School, Lindero Canyon Middle School and Ascension Lutheran School.
“Socially, we have so many schools involved in our group that they are meeting boys from other schools who they wouldn’t normally meet,” Christian said. “But they are also meeting boys who have the same values as them and want to do the same things.”
According to Nick, performing community service with peers makes the activities more enjoyable.
“A lot say that community service is boring, but I’ve found that if you have a friend that you can get out of your comfort zone with, you have a lot of fun,” he said.
The boys not only get to experience more time with their peers while volunteering, but also spend more time with their parents. The majority of the volunteer activities include both parents and their sons, bringing families closer together.
“Most of the time my dad doesn’t have much time off because he is working a lot,” Christian said. “Sometimes we can talk while we are doing the (volunteer) work, when he would usually be at work.”
Because of the success of its Conejo Valley League, BTC Inc. may establish additional chapters in California. But for now, the Conejo Valley chapter is focusing on instilling the values of community service in its boys and creating lifelong volunteers.
“I will always give back and try to help out,” Nick said.


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