Abundance of teens volunteer at Richmond State Supported Living Center

Fulshear High School sophomore Brittany Onyewuenyi was power-washing the concrete stairs clean. George Ranch students Morgan Obi, Brayden McKnight, and Luke and Will Childress sorted and organized items in a storage room.

Needville High School sophomores Kyla Wieghat and Ashley Dannhous, George Ranch students Ceanar Hernandez, Keyauna Dixon and Emily Board were shoveling dirt to create a garden around a gazebo.

It was the Richmond State Supported Living Center’s Second Annual Teen Service Hour Marathon, where various high school students and volunteers from throughout Fort Bend County came this week to help wherever they could.

The center was filled with helpful teenagers throughout almost every building on its campus.

The RSSLC, formerly known as the Richmond State School, is a 24-hour intermediate care facility serving men and women with intellectual and/or development disabilities. The marathon event gave the students a chance to earn up to 24 service hours over the three-day period from Tuesday to Thursday.

While steering a golf cart, giving a tour of the center, RSSLC Director of Community Relations Shannan Stavinoha noted that this year’s abundance of volunteers was a wonderful surprise.

"We had 25 kids sign up last year,” she said. This year, the center had 127 teens signed up to work on Tuesday, 121 on Wednesday, and 118 on Thursday.

"Now we gotta find stuff for them to do. The thing that’s really cool is, I emailed out my department heads and said: Do y’all have stuff teenagers could do?

"And man oh man, they came back and said, ‘Yes, we got projects!’”

Projects included sorting and organizing materials, power-washing sidewalks and stairs, building and refurbishing outdoor holiday scenes used in the center’s annual "Project Noel Tour of Lights,” scanning and archiving files for the Volunteer Services Council, painting curbs and sidewalks with reflective yellow paint, working with individuals in the Forever Young department, stocking the hurricane preparedness storeroom, and planting and working on gardens.

"We even have a couple of kids from Stafford,” Stavinoha added. The student volunteers she noted, are mostly from Fort Bend and Lamar ISDs. "It’s really all of Fort Bend County, we’re really blessed.”

Stavinoha pointed out that the center covers 241 acres. "We’re very big,” she said.

"Honestly, I’m probably really biased, but I think it’s the most beautiful property in Fort Bend County. I really do. There’s amazing trees, the river does this little eye loop.

"We’re a closed campus so people don’t really get to see this very often. That’s kind of the importance of having teenagers come out.”

Stavinoha, a Lamar Consolidated High School alumnae, recalled volunteering at the campus as a young girl.

"It was my exposure,” she said. "You dont know this is the population you’re drawn to work with until you’ve been around them.

"One of our leads at Forever Young, she did not know until she was 12 years old and there was a life skills class at her school. She kind of peaked in the window and was like, ‘What are they doing in there?’

"And now shes dedicated her entire life to [helping these individuals].”

Stavinoha steered the golf cart toward a gazebo, surrounded by teenage girls shoveling.

"This gazebo was a gift from the Volunteer Services Council, and the Richmond Garden Club gave us $500 to cover the supplies and flowers to plant the garden around it,” she explained.

"We are very excited about that.”

While taking a quick water break under the shade of the gazebo, Foster junior Willessie Jean Charles shared that she found out about the volunteer service hours through an email from one of the volunteer coordinators.

"I like it, its fun,” she said.

Amid options of painting, carpentering or cleaning, Willessie said she wanted to do something different that she hasn’t done before and chose gardening. She rolled up her sleeves and grabbed a shovel to test out her green thumb.

As for notes for future volunteers? "Do it. Its really fun, its eye-opening,” she said. "[And] drink a lot of water.”

Posted by BY DIANA NGUYEN on 7/14/2017 7:42:06 AM

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