The Greatest Gift by Kathleen Corey Rahme

Sharon Pollard and Kathleen Corey RahmeBy: Kathleen Corey Rahme – January, 2005

 With the holiday upon us, the giving spirit is apparent. But some of us give of ourselves on a regular basis and it is not reserved for a special time of year. It is the gift of oneself that is the greatest gift. I am thinking specifically of a young man named David Francescone of Methuen. He is a member of the Methuen Youth Corps and one of approximately 50 young people, aged 9-17, who do community service on a regular basis.

A junior at Methuen High School, Francescone approached me in the fall and informed me he was looking for a leadership project on his National Honor Society application. As it turns out, the mother of a special needs student, Michael, had just notified me. You see, Michael, age eleven, had been on a waiting list for more than five years for the Big Brother, Big Sister organization. Michael’s mother took a chance and called the Methuen Youth Corps to see if there were any volunteers willing to work with Michael to improve his reading skills and play computer games with him. What she was looking for was someone to mentor her son and provide companionship. What she found was more than any of us bargained for.

 As part of his leadership project, David Francescone set out to gather a few of his very reliable friends to work out a rotation to be with Michael on a weekly basis. We all thought it would be best for a group of students to share time with Michael. David gathered his friends Tu Pham, Reynaldo Santana, Deven Neel, and Michelle Abbasciano – all juniors at Methuen High School.

They take turns meeting Michael at the Nevins Library as part of a weekly routine. I had the opportunity to go to the library to witness this encounter and what I found was amazing. I saw a group of Methuen Youth Corps members all playing with Michael. They enjoy his company so much they all show up regularly. When I was there, Michael was making a very creative card on the computer for his mother.

The Methuen Youth Corps members seemed to be learning a few computer tricks from Michael as well. This is an ongoing effort by a group of very giving, young people. From what I can see, everyone in the group is benefiting from this project. The Methuen Youth Corps members learn about volunteerism and mentoring. David Francescone has learned about leadership and managing a project. Francescone reports, “ It reminds me of why people should always try to get out in the world and experience community service.” When I asked him about these experiences, he said, “It’s great to spend a few hours with such an interesting child. I enjoy every minute of it.”

 Another Methuen Youth Corps member gave another wonderful gift this past fall. When word got out that a city resident, Mrs. Ouellette, needed her handicap ramp painted because neither she nor her husband, also wheelchair bound, would be able to negotiate their chairs and paint at the same time, eighth-grader Laura McCann , and her mother decided to take action. They went to Mrs. Ouellette’s house and painted the ramp in one day for her. A very grateful Mrs. Ouellette offered to pay. Of course, the Methuen Youth Corps does not take money! One simple gesture certainly made a huge difference to Mrs. Ouellette. This mother-daughter experience is something they will remember for a lifetime.

 Other members of the Methuen Youth Corps have been busy at the Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) located in Methuen. Headed by Jayan Landry Conlin, TIP is a program that serves surrounding communities and responds to trauma situations by providing counseling and assistance to victims. On a regular basis, Samantha O’Toole and Analisa Faro, both eighth graders, and DJ Beauregard, a sophomore at Methuen High School, assist in whatever Conlin needs – from stuffing envelopes for the annual appeal to decorating the office Christmas tree for the volunteer party.

Conlin is very appreciative of the Methuen Youth Corps. She treats them to pizza and I heard she even served shrimp and chocolate-covered strawberries once! The Methuen Youth Corps volunteers benefit from Conlin’s example of volunteerism. Faro enjoys her time at TIPand she told me, “I like working there because Jayan is a wonderful person and it is so amazing on how many people they help. Working there has taught me a lot about people volunteering their time for such good causes. The world would be so much better with more devoted people like Jayan. It has also trained me for office support. I enjoy working with people as a team.”

 What does all this mean? It means that a few hours of your time in the realm of volunteerism can make a huge difference in your community. It means that our young people are learning to give of themselves. It is the promise for a bright future. It is the Golden Rule of Golden Rules. We are truly blessed to have young people in our midst who see that the gift is of oneself and it should be given regularly, not just once a year.