Foster Kid Learns Joy of Volunteering

As part of KPCC's month-long "Season's Givings" series, Kitty Felde talks to a former foster kid who was recently honored as an "Outstanding Youth Volunteer."

Kitty Felde: I'm Kitty Felde with Season's Givings. Jevon Wilkes was a foster kid. He even spent time living on the streets. But then he stumbled into the Bresee Youth Center, just west of downtown L.A.

Jevon Wilkes: Oh, I was just one of those kids at Bresee that just hanged out, played video games, and just went there to get some support from the staff.

Felde: He also discovered he could give support to other people.

Wilkes: I went to the community and did a cleanup. Honestly, I had community service. And then after that, I just said "Wow! This feels good." And I would bug them: "When's the next cleanup? When's the next cleanup?"

Felde: Why?

Wilkes: Because it was fun. You got to meet people ,and you're cleaning up, and it doesn't necessarily hurt, or the dirt doesn't look disgusting. It looks beautiful because after the work is done, it's– you know, the dirt on your hands, you did that. So I mean, it's beautiful. Then after that, I just, you know, it kept going, I kept giving.

Felde: Wilkes tutored middle school kids in math. He taught a Bresee class in financial literacy. And then he discovered a group of autistic children.

Wilkes: I went to the class and the teacher let me help out, and it was like one of the most incredible experience I've had. To deal with them, and work with them, and gain a close relationship with them and to actually watch them grow.

Felde: Jevon Wilkes is now a math major at Cal State Channel Islands. College has cut into his volunteer time, but he still finds opportunities to lend a hand, like raising money for a young woman with serious health issues. He was recently honored at last month's National Philanthropy Day celebrations as Southern California's "Outstanding Youth Volunteer."

Wilkes: You know, I love helping people, I love being of service to people, so that's, it's a chain reaction. You help one person, that person can help two persons, those two people can help four people, and it just keeps growing.