To Stephanie Martin, her reason for volunteering with Parks Youth Ranch, an organization which provides shelter, counseling and services to homeless and at-risk youth in Fort Bend County, has always been clear: to be the voice of children who can’t speak for themselves.
“I’ve always had a passion for kids,” said Martin, who previously volunteered with Child Advocates of Fort Bend. “Unfortunately, children are not able to advocate on their own behalf. It often takes someone to listen to them and advocate for them. That’s always been my goal: to advocate for children who aren’t able to advocate for themselves.”
For Martin, who said her involvement in volunteer work started at “a very young age,” volunteering with Parks Youth Ranch was a “natural progression.” She joined the Fort Bend Junior League in 2007 and after circulating around a number of different organizations, which the League supports, discovered Parks Youth Ranch. “I had been a child advocate volunteer,” said Martin. “I advocated for children in foster homes, for children who came from bad situations. It was just an easy progression volunteering with Parks Youth Ranch. It made sense to do both.”
Martin currently volunteers at the organization on an “as needed” basis, giving “as much or as little time” needed. Although she noted that there’s never a “typical day” for a volunteer, duties may include administrative work or working on fundraising events. The ranch, which split into two service facilities, one which offers counseling services to both youth and their families, and one which provides 90-day emergency shelter for adolescents between ages 13 and 17, also has volunteers who mentor and teach the children, and who work with the community. “The volunteer opportunities are endless,” said Martin. “Whether you have a little time to give or a lot of time. Whether you have a special skill to teach or just have love in your heart.”
Ultimately, Martin said she hopes her time with the organization will “somehow impact” the lives of the children who come through the ranch. “Often, these children come in to a situation that is beyond their control: maybe their mom has kicked them out, or they’ve come from an abusive situation and have no other place to go,” she said. “These children fall through the cracks of the system. They have no one to advocate for them, to care for them. It’s always been a passion of mine to find people who are in that situation, who fall through the cracks, and advocate for them, and lift them up in the system so they’re able to fix themselves.”
For more information regarding Parks Youth Ranch, call 281-392-5794 or visit www.parksyouthranch.org. For additional volunteer opportunities in Fort Bend County, call Volunteer 713-965-0031 or visit www.VolunteerFortBend.org.