BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When Neva Butkus moved to Baton Rouge five years ago, she had grown up outside of Chicago and wanted to continue volunteering as she had there.
Neva works two jobs. She's an assistant to Baton Rouge attorney Gordon "Get it Done" McKernan, and a bartender at Blend in downtown Baton Rouge. But 9-News found her entering a building on Acadian Thruway near North Boulevard. After buzzing in, a friendly man greets her at the door, "Hi. Neva". The Youth Oasis building has security because it houses homeless young people. The emergency shelter for young people is a converted church building, and can house teens and twenty-somethings for days, or as long as three months.
When Neva first heard about Youth Oasis, she was still a student at LSU. "Actually, I ran into Miss Melissa, who is the previous director, at Menchies yogurt place. I was an elementary education major."
Neva said her education training made her perfect for working with the kids on enrichment programs that could help them in careers or life in general.
"This summer we're doing a poetry workshop. I brought in poems from Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes," Neva said, "We read them together so the kids can work on their reading skills, and then we go through literary devices and what a poem means to them. And use a poem to reflect on larger issues."
You see, Neva knows that while lessons are underway, teens find a way to talk about what they're really thinking and feeling. She said, they're "a lot more uninhibited, they're much freer to express their opinions without maybe feeling constricted by being in a classroom. It's really wonderful."
At a time when many single people would be otherwise occupied, Neva Butkus finds great job in her volunteer work. "I can't tell you how many people I tell them about the work I do and they say they would love to do something about that. But you can't (just) say it, you have to do it! I think it was Helen Keller who said, that no one has the right to consume happiness without producing it. And I tell myself that every single day."
The Power of 9 Volunteer Awards are sponsored by Capital One Bank, WAFB and the Capital Area United Way Volunteer Center.