Plano moms and sister-in-laws Pam Rosener and Julie Rosener started a movement in Collin County when they created The Young Men’s Service League 17 years ago. The Rosener’s wanted to create a platform for moms and sons to serve together in their communities, just as mothers and daughters do through the National Charity League. But The Young Men’s Service League, which she founded in Plano in 2001, is much more than an avenue for community service. It enables young men in grades 9–12 to become leaders in their communities and beyond. The Young Men’s Service League has grown to include 90 chapters across the country. We spoke with the Rosener’s, whose children are now adults, about what inspires them and what they hope the service league inspires in others.
What was it about the National Charity League that inspired you to create The Young Men’s Service League?
Pam Rosener: Girls and moms do tons together, right? They serve, shop and get their nails done. But moms don’t have as many opportunities with boys to do those kinds of things. That was really the heart of it—just providing them opportunities to serve. I would say that 20 years ago, a good portion of the service was done by women and not necessarily by young men. We wanted to create a heart of service in them by starting them younger, so they will keep that in their heart as they go to college and beyond.
Julie Rosener: We have different areas for the boys where [they] do volunteer work, have their meetings and a position [in the organization]. That’s exactly how it is in National Charity League. What we tried to do is take all the good things out of National Charity League [and incorporate that into] growth for the boys and something that they could actually use in their life.
How have you seen the relationships between mothers and sons change through serving on YMSL?
PR: We do the volunteering. [But] we also have an education section of our program that teaches life skills on all different kinds of things—from how to buy food at the grocery store to how to change your tire. It opens up dialogue not just about the service, but also about the things they are learning. We kicked off a huge program on addiction. We’re trying to educate our young men about what the risks are involved in that and how to avoid the pitfalls that lead you down that road. Creating topics of conversation creates a better communication between the mom and the son.
JR: I think it’s just amazing how you get to spend time with your child—that one-on-one or with another mom and son. [And], they understand the importance of serving others. They realize how blessed they are. [One of my son’s and I] really enjoyed doing Meals on Wheels together. It was the two of us together driving all around Plano. The directions weren’t so good back then, so we worked together to figure out how [to get there]. I really treasured that time together. I had another son who, probably our favorite service was Bingo. We would call out the numbers and serve snacks.
What skills or lessons do the young men learn that will serve them throughout the rest of their lives?
PR: We have millions of these stories. My son was planting a tree for Habitat [for Humanity] and dug a hole with a pickaxe—which he’d never done in his life before—and then he picked something real hard at the end. A supervisor came up and said, “Oh, got to fill that in. That’s the sewer line, and you can’t plant that there.” On the way home I asked him, “So what did you learn today?” And he said, “I’m not sure how to dig a hole … maybe.” And I said, “Maybe when you own your own home, you’ll look and see where the sewer line is on the street. You’ll figure out where it goes to the house before you start to dig a hole.” It’s not all rocket science; it’s just little lessons that can be learned.
How has The Young Men’s Service League changed over the years? Do you see changes in the near future?
JR: It started off with our class. Pam and I had pitched it to our friends. They thought, “Oh my gosh, I love the ideas!” We had a meeting about a month later. Everyone volunteered. Everybody had a job—I think that’s another [reason for the] success of the whole organization. Other people found out about it at our school and they wanted to be a part of it, so we started another chapter. Then we started reaching out to some of the private schools around the area. And then, we started taking it out of the city. We had a friend that was in Atlanta, so she started an organization [there]. Now we’re all throughout the country.
PR: This is the year I’m going to call “To Infinity and Beyond,” because we are making huge changes that I am so excited about. I’ve grown my national board, which helps me run the organization. We’ve brought on technology—we’re really leaning hard on technology, and that’s where our push is this year—to be more automated so we can grow faster and serve more people faster. We have a phenomenal resource to start chapters with. It’s like getting a chapter in a box almost. We provide them everything they need to start their chapter. That’s enabled us to be able to grow at a really rapid pace. I think we’re on our way to something great here in the next five years—not that we haven’t been great already. We did over 300,000 hours of community service last year across the United States.
What message do you think YMSL sends to the community?
PR: I think we’re really kind of a secret. I think most of the people involved with [YMSL] five years ago, they have no idea what’s happened since they served with us. Collin County needs to be proud. We are the root of this organization that is now serving people across the country. It’s very impactful, and if it hadn’t been for the people who committed to grow it in the very beginning from Collin County, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Why is volunteering and community service important?
PR: Because the world has so many needs. We are blessed to be in a very great location and we have a phenomenal economy, yet we still are faced with tremendous poverty and very unfortunate circumstances. The services that are in place can’t keep up with the demand. It’s important for us to take care of those who are less fortunate in whatever aspect, whether it’s monetary or emotional or physical—there’s a lot of different levels of needs.
JR: I think that, again, we’re so very blessed. I think it’s good to think of the needs of others who aren’t very fortunate.