Program strengthens Hinsdale student's commitment to service

Volunteer work has always been part of Dot McCarthy's life. From preparing breakfast for guests at the PADS homeless shelter to raking leaves for senior neighbors, McCarthy said she enjoys giving back to her community any way she can.

Involvement in Community Memorial Foundation's second annual Young Community Changemakers program allowed her to take her commitment to service to a whole new level.

The Young Community Changemakers program, also known as YC2, is a leadership development program designed to educate and empower local youth to become the next generation of philanthropists.

"It's something that allows you to be more in charge and directly involved," McCarthy said - a rare opportunity for someone her age.

Made up of juniors and seniors from Nazareth Academy and Lyons Township High School, YC2 is an opportunity for young people to explore the needs around them. They then decide as a group how to best address those needs through $15,000 in funding.

Before deciding where the funding would go, students agreed to focus their efforts on equity in health care and education. They then reviewed applications from almost 40 area programs. The group's work took a turn earlier this year when schools closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Meetings became virtual, but the work continued, resulting in the decision to split the money between Alivio Medical Center, and School and Tutors on Wheels, now known as TEACH.

McCarthy said she came away from the experience with a wider, more realistic view of the needs of nonprofit organizations within the community. Among other things, she learned about the behind-the-scenes needs and overhead costs that must be met in order for any organization to effectively pursue its mission. She also gained a clearer understanding of how to best use her own resources.

"This experience really changed my views on what philanthropy actually is," she said.

Nazareth Academy Principal Therese Hawkins said McCarthy was an obvious choice for the YC2 program.

"Dot fully embodies Nazareth's pillars of scholarship, service, spirit and unity," Hawkins said. "Her personal qualities of optimism, compassion and desire to leave a positive mark on her world are inspiring and make her an outstanding role model as a young woman."

Even while sheltering in place, McCarthy and her family have found ways to serve by sewing masks and making cards for seniors.

"We're very lucky in that we are able to give to others," she said.

As she prepares to enter her senior year, McCarthy has begun to consider what she will study in college and where she will go. She said any path she chooses will include ways to give of her time, talent and treasure. Thanks to her experience with YC2, she said she has a better understanding of how to use those gifts for the greatest good.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean