When Kristi Hassett’s oldest son asked if he could be a part of a community service organization, she thought the sophomore wouldn’t be able to handle another commitment.
With high school and the Boy Scouts and other interests, it just wasn’t feasible at the time.
“But then the next year came around and he said, ‘Mom, Mom, I really want to do this.’ All his friends were in it and I realized I was the obstacle to my son doing community service,” Hassett said.
In the two jumped, headlong, into the Young Men’s Service League, a nonprofit that aims to draw young men and their mothers into personal philanthropy throughout their communities.
The YMSL, started in 2001, also provides an opportunity to enhance mother/son relationships.
Based in the Flower Mound/Highland Village area, the Pacesetter Chapter of YMSL was activated in the fall of 2013. Each mom-and-son team serves 20 hours of community service during the year.
“Time goes so quickly that we must try to capture an element of our son’s souls,” Kristi Hassett, vice president of communications said. “If we serve side-by-side, he will not only learn about other’s needs, he will also learn about his own character and a respect for the mother/son relationship that he might not have seen otherwise.
“He may see his mom as someone different than he knew and see a place in her heart that he will remember as he grows into a young man with his own family; that memory will encourage him to teach the same compassion that he witnessed to his family.”
Many of the young men have learned valuable lessons about people who are less fortunate or physically not capable to help themselves. They have also learned new skills such as roofing and painting during Habitat for Humanity work, arts and crafts and tutoring with philanthropies involving helping young children, and playing bingo and just being with the senior citizens.
They have sorted donated shoes and clothing, sorted and packed food, cleaned children’s toys and furniture, painted, landscaped, torn down sheds, planted vegetables, played games with assisted-living residents and assisted students with homework.
Even when it’s not convenient, early on Saturday mornings, these mother/son duos have built wheelchair ramps, passed out Christmas presents, hosted an Easter egg hunt, played games and assisted with Special Olympics sports program, collected trash at area parks, lakes and highways, collected dog and cat food, made sheets and blankets, written letters to soldiers, packed hygiene bags and socks for those in need as well as many other activities to assist our community.
“I really enjoy forcing my kids to be a part of the community,” Hassett said. I’ve found they have always enjoyed the activity … after it’s over. We have great conversations on the way home. They’ll say, ‘I didn’t know there was this need in the community.’”
The Hassett household especially enjoys helping out with the Special Olympics.
Other local organizations who have benefited from the benevolence of the YMSL families include: Christian Community Action; the City of Highland Village; Communities in Schools; Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home; Denton County Friends of the Family; the Flower Mound Humane Society; Keep Flower Mound Beautiful; Knight-Light Charities Gardens; New Hope Learning Center; the North Texas Food Bank; Rosewood Assisted Living; Rotary House; Run for Freedom; the Salvation Army – Lewisville; the Special Olympics – Texas Area 11; and the Texas Ramps.
“A child of a mid-to-upper class family doesn’t have to deal with these things,” Hassett said of her two sons, ages 14 and 16. “I want them to judge less and accept more. Maybe they’ll be better citizens.”
In 2001, Pam and Julie Rosener, sisters-in-law who both had daughters active in the National Charity League, realized that there was not a similar organization in existence for sons to work together with their mothers—as a group—to provide community service in Plano.
The two formed an organization for high school boys and their mothers, with the thought that often moms and sons grow apart during the high school years, and this would give them some time together doing meaningful work for their community, as well as strengthening their own personal relationships.
The Pacesetter Chapter celebrated its second year of service at a banquet on May 1 at the Cowboys Golf Club.
The pairs go through a four-year plan and learn about things like career choices, doing laundry, budgeting, steroid education, drug and alcohol awareness, cooking a spaghetti dinner, and what to know to get into college.
“YMSL tries to involve people in the community to serve as speakers for the meetings and they are always looking for people who have great messages for the young men.”
The group is a two-pronged outreach. One goal is to help instill in young men core leadership values and using them to become community leaders. Many will continue to serve in college, their workplaces and eventually their cities as a result of the things they learn in the YMSL.
And so the YMSL provides an environment and prodding for a teen boy to lead when he normally may not have taken that plunge. The hope is that this will route him into a current where he swims against stream, holding confidence to reach goals that may once have seemed impossible.
Moms also grow and become stronger leaders. Many women may not have held any leadership position prior to YMSL, but have become comfortable and confident in roles they would not have dreamed of taking. They learn a variety of new skills, are introduced to some amazing women within the organization and personally benefit from their new network relationships.
“It’s great to see my kids interact with kids … The kids glom onto the teenagers. Our boys’ faces are changed when they’re helping the younger kids,” Hassett said.
A National YMSL organization was formed in 2005. National YMSL began the process of chartering additional chapters, initially adding four. As of the spring of 2014, there are 42 chapters, in 8 states and more are expected soon.
The vision is for the organization to continue to grow and expand and to one day become a nationwide program. As of now there are 90 moms and 106 young men in the Pacesetter Chapter. In 2014-2015 so far, they have served 3,274 hours.