For many of us, the beginnings of community involvement are accompanied by people we care about.

I remember my own beginnings, fishing on the Redwood River with my dad and my brother, and my first state tournament basketball with my mom, dad and a friend.

Big Buddies is a program of United Community Action Partnership (UCAP) that focuses on supporting youth, which includes helping those closest to them.

Connecting young people with the community often begins with strengthening their connection to the people they see every day.

There are currently 55 youth registered in Big Buddies throughout Redwood County who come from 32 different households, and one of the missions of Big Buddies is to support the participants’ entire circle of influence.

Our Little Buddies’ parents, guardians, family members, friends and neighbors are always welcome to join in our youth activities and outings. These opportunities to spend time with family members at various community events and local festivities ignite a real sense of belonging and also help kids feel safe in not-so-familiar surroundings.

Supporting youth and their families encompasses a lot more than community involvement, and there are many opportunities for everyone to help.

Thanks to regional donations, UCAP also supports local youth through the annual Coats for Kids drive later in October. In November, our UCAP office in downtown Redwood Falls also connects our families to the annual Share the Spirit drive in Redwood County.

Donations to Big Buddies also make it possible for us to provide additional gifts and fun at our annual holiday party in December. Big Buddies and UCAP are committed to strengthening our community in many ways. This means connecting youth to meaningful and fun experiences.

It also means connecting entire households to basic necessities.

Check out www.unitedcapmn.org to find out more about all the programs available at UCAP.

– Mark Trefry is a youth development manager for United Community Action Partnership