A good day, every day
Five years ago, high school student Ke–Shon Riley became a volunteer at the Salvation Army’s after–school program in York, Pa. That’s because, over time, the program became a home away from home, and a refuge from the challenges he faced.
“When I was in sixth grade, my mother and father were going through a separation,” he said. “They were apart from each other, so it was difficult for me to deal with that at home and then come into school and focus on what needed to be done.”
His association with workers at the after–school program gave him a purpose beyond his immediate need as well as a reason to care for others in a place where he belonged. “I always felt like I was at home when I went there. The staff was great. I could always connect with them. They always had that loving care for me.”
Fox 43 TV reporter Amy Lutz interviewed Ke–Shon and said, “He helped to run activities ranging from music and basketball to offering help with homework and providing a safe place for kids to go.”
Ke–Shon could also empathize with the kids when family issues surfaced. “A lot of kids I talked to also have hard times at home; everything is not all good. So, when they come here, they feel more comfortable.[The program] helped me and it helped a lot of other kids. The Salvation Army will always have a place in my heart.”
Lifting other kids higher
Today, Riley works full time as a forklift operator and is employed by The Salvation Army as a counselor for the after–school program. During a recent meeting via Zoom, he said to Lutz with a smile, “I’m excited to see the new faces that come in and out every school year.
“I just try to stay positive with them and give them that ‘second home’ feeling and let them know that they can do anything that they put their minds to.”
Junior Fleuristin, 17 and an after–school program student, said of Riley, “I think every kid on staff likes him. He really has fun with kids and appreciates them.” Mishamma Fleuristin, 12, said, “I see him as a role model because he sets a good example for the kids. He teaches them to be active, to listen, to be mature, and to just have fun.”
Says Riley, “I love all the kids and they love me. I get to see the brightness that all kids have. They may have their bad days, but we know that they’re all good kids.”
To anyone who contemplates volunteering in similar capacities, Riley says, “If you volunteer here, you’ll connect with the kids and you should have a good day, every day, like I do.”
by Warren L. Maye