Young Engaged Lodge Leaders, or YELL! groups, are small groups of people under age 40 committed to making a difference in their communities. This year, our YELL! groups really stepped up to get young people involved in fun ways. No. 141 made May baskets, No. 225 made pillowcases for foster care children, and No. 389 volunteered at a Czech festival, to name a few.
|No. 141 YELL! members deliver May baskets.||No. 141 YELL! member Tiffany Mehus helped serve beverages at the pancake breakfast.|
Youth members of No. 141, Cadott, WI got involved in two projects that benefited their community this year.
They continued their annual May basket project. Years ago, Cade Sikora started a youth group at the lodge that eventually morphed into the YELL! group. He also had a hobby of making origami flowers. Even though Cade is busy with grad school now, he continues to make the flowers and mails them to the YELL! group. They assemble May baskets and then deliver them to care centers and senior homes.
YELL! members from No. 225 (Bannister, MI) did several projects this year. They felt the most important project was sewing pillowcases for children who enter into the local foster care system. Often these children have to be taken from their homes quickly, without any of their possessions. The local foster care closet tries to provide each child with immediate necessities. They also give each child a pillow so they can rest their head each night on something that belongs to them.
The YELL! project is to make pillowcases for the pillows. YELL! member Mary Sopocy stated, “This is an important project and a good idea because it gives the kids something that is theirs.”
|No. 225 YELL! with pillowcases.||
No. 225 YELL! at the Foster Closet where they donated the pillowcases.
Each one is different and the materials are chosen to appeal to children. Each foster child chooses their own pillowcase from all the ones that have been delivered to Sheila Barnaby, Director of the Mid-Michigan Foster and Adoptive Coalition. Sheila is appreciative of the donation and commented, “It is extra special because these are made by kids for other kids.”
The project is completed during the annual YELL! Lock-In held at the lodge hall each March. YELL! mentor, Diane Bradley, usually purchases material throughout the year whenever she sees a pattern that would appeal to children. During the lock-in, members do the sewing (learning how to do French seams) and ironing. They make and sign gift cards to let the foster children know they’re being thought of. This is the third year they’ve made pillowcases and in the past have also made fleece blankets and winter hats for them too.
“It’s nice to know they (foster kids) are getting something special and know we care about them,” said YELL! member Emily Sopocy.
YELL! member Stacie Bush thinks that it is important for the group to give back to the community. “Kids our age sometimes focus on themselves and forget to think of others so this project reminds them how lucky they are and how other kids often have difficult lives.”
Although they have a good core group of members, they continue to work on getting more members involved. The group brainstormed ways they could publicize their activities and get more exposure in the local community. YELL! member Rachel Fornusek explained, “Although our favorite activity is the lock-in, we believe a few more social activities would attract others.”
“It’s important to talk to others about the YELL! group and invite them to activities. The group represents the future of the lodge and now is the time to get involved so we can carry on the lodge activities and traditions,” added Christa Fornusek, YELL! member.
In addition to the pillowcase project, the group is particularly proud of the other community service projects they take part in, like Adopt-A-Highway.
This summer was the first time that No. 389's (Western, NE) YELL! group volunteered at the South Central Nebraska Czech Festival in Hastings, NE. They had a table where they passed out goodie bags, Western pencils, and Czech/English animal name sheets. “The goodie bags were fun,” commented YELL! liason Katie Zoubek, “Because it makes us feel good seeing how a simple act of kindness makes a big difference in the lives of children and adults. The smiles and kind words make us want to keep spreading kindness to our surrounding communities.”
|No. 389 YELL! with items to promote the lodge.||Kelsey, Phillip, and Monica Zoubek of the YELL! group.|
YELL! members enjoyed talking with friendly people at the festival. They went around and sold tickets for a drawing and got to talk to many people about the YELL! group. They also got to draw the tickets for the drawing.
The YELL! members got to enjoy some of the festival activities, which included a very nice man who showed them how to play the accordion, a bake sale, vendors with lots of Czech items, Czech demonstrations, and dancing/listening to Polka music. They also had a wonderful authentic Czech meal that included roast pork, polish sausage, goulash, dumplings, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, dill or brown gravy, vegetable, roast duck dinner, kolache, and strudels. The food was amazing and the kids loved it. The group really enjoyed celebrating and promoting their Czech heritage while enjoying great food and activities. Katie Zoubek stated, “We enjoyed meeting many new people while celebrating and promoting our Czech heritage.”
YELL! members like volunteering at Hastings and the October Czech Festival in York, NE. Both are a single day, held inside, so the kids don't have to be in the heat while also enjoying favorite Czech activities.
“Saline Center lodge and YELL! group is about having a safe place to go and everyone feels like family,” Katie Zoubek commented. “We have a lot of three-generation families in the lodge. We have fun together but also work hard to keep our lodge running and supporting our surrounding communities.”
Other activities this year include roadside pick up, mowing/clean up at the Northfork Cemetery, Saline Center Consignment Sale, and volunteering various places, especially the Czech events. “They are a lot of physical work, but in the end you feel great for what you accomplished and you are not afraid of working. The YELL! group has encouraged us to make our world a better place through volunteering and supporting our lodge and surrounding communities.”
No. 144 (Mosinee, WI)'s YELL! group are children and grandchildren of lodge members. This year, their big activities were to make reflective owls and to play Bingo with nursing home residents.
|No. 144 YELL! making reflective owls.||No. 144 YELL! helping out with Bingo.|
The reflective owls are made to prevent birds from crashing into windows. Adult lodge member Gladys Ruha suggested the project since she had completed it before with one of her classes as a teacher. Gladys Ruha, Sharon Altenhoffen, and Carmen Ganter collected supplies of used CDs, construction paper, tacky glue, googly eyes, foam shapes, and scissors. Two youth, Jayda and Alyza, prepared the owls on a Saturday. Then, even more children made them on Sunday, with the older kids helping the younger kids. By practicing the day before, they were able to help others more easily the next day.
The finished owls were given to lodge members to enjoy and some were given to Mead Wildlife to be given to visitors of the education center. “We have heard that it was well received and the people that have them in their windows say they haven’t had any bird catastrophes,” said lodge member Pamela Thompson.
No. 144's YELL! group also played Bingo at nursing homes. Jayda and Alyza started attending Bingo days a few years ago with other lodge members. The first time they volunteered, they handed out prizes. This year, they were brave enough to help bring residents to the gaming area, help them cover the numbers, call the numbers, hand out prizes, and get residents back to their rooms. They enjoyed working with the seniors.
Jayda and Alyza like it well enough to play Bingo at another nursing home on their own in Plover. The girls have learned self confidence in this project and that seniors really appreciate their visits, even if they do not have prizes to give them.
No. 147 (Mandan, ND)'s YELL! group volunteered at the annual Hwy. 6 & 21 Rummage Sale alongside other members of the lodge. Young and old helped set up tables and price items for the event. The items, such as clothing, baby and adult items, knick knacks, pictures, books, household items, antiques, and decor were donated by both members and community members.
|No. 147's rummage sale.||No. 147 YELL! and lodge members recycling cardboard.|
Over 400 people came through the sale, that was held in the lodge hall. They came to shop, purchase prizes, and look at the 115-year-old building.
After the two-day event, members boxed up items and donated them to Goodwill. They cleaned up the hall after the event.
YELL! groups are a great way for younger people to get involved in the lodge. Through activities catered to their interests, members develop leadership skills and strong friendships that benefit them personally, as well as strengthen the future of the lodge. If a lodge is interested in starting a YELL! group, they should contact Don Nieland at the Home Office.
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Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.