At 22 years old, James Babcock is involved in his community more than most, regardless of age. "I do pretty much anything I can to stay busy and help others," says James, who serves on the Powhatan Rotary; is president of the county's Anti-Litter Council; helps plan county events like the Powhatan Wine Festival and Fourth Fridays; and volunteers for multiple nonprofits. James' family did not have a lot growing up. Living with his grandparents, he works full-time and saves for the future. He understands living within his means and how it feels when a program like YMCA Bright Beginnings comes along and makes life a little easier.
Before the Elizabeth Randolph Lewis Powhatan YMCA was built, the Midlothian Family YMCA was outfitting children in Powhatan with new clothes and school supplies as part of YMCA Bright Beginnings. "My little brother was in fifth grade and I was in sixth, so I was technically aged-out of Bright Beginnings. But when the Y asked the principal if there were any other children in need, she got me in. I was pretty shy and older than all of the other kids, so it helped that the principal was my shopping buddy," said James.
In 1999, YMCA Bright Beginnings was seven years old. James and his brother were part of the first shopping trip that included children from Powhatan County, over five years before the Elizabeth Randolph Lewis Powhatan YMCA was built. "When Mary Kay Gates, the Y's executive director, came last year and spoke to our Rotary about Bright Beginnings, I thought, 'How can I not help with something that helped me and my family?'" said James. Now, as a volunteer and donor, James sees the program through a different set of eyes. "Being a volunteer is truly an awesome experience. It wasn't apparent when I was in sixth grade, but it's made me realize how many people there are who truly care about others."
Last year, the Elizabeth Randolph Lewis Powhatan YMCA and 127 community volunteers ensured 73 children started the school year with new clothes, supplies and the sense of self confidence needed to excel academically. This year, the Y is hoping to serve even more children and James is looking forward to being involved. "I still have the picture of me and my shopping buddy from 1999," says James. "It sits right next to my volunteer picture from last year. It just feels good giving back to something from which you've benefited."
This article is based on a 2010 Richmond Times-Dispatch interview with James Babcock.
To make a secure online donation to YMCA Bright Beginnings, click the Donate button and select the YMCA Bright Beginnings campaign in the drop down menu on the donation form. If you would like your gift to serve children from a specific YMCA's community, select that branch after selecting the campaign.
To mail in your gift, please download the PDF below:
YMCA Bright Beginnings Remit Instructions
and mail it to:
YMCA of Greater Richmond
2 W. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23220
Attention: Financial Development Department
* If you would like your gift to serve a specific community, please designate on the check the YMCA branch to which it applies.
If your organization or company would like to partner with YMCA Bright Beginnings, please contact Tito Luna, Association Community Development Director, at lunat at ymcarichmond dot org.
Many Thanks to Our Sponsors