By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – When Chris Peris was growing up in Shrewsbury, he looked up to his older brother and was glad to have his positive influence. Ten years ago, as an adult living in the Boston area, he decided he wanted to become a big brother for someone who doesn’t have one. He signed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters Association and was paired with a boy who didn’t have a male role model. Upon moving back to Shrewsbury five years ago, Peris wanted to find a way to “give back” locally.
Such an opportunity soon turned up unexpectedly. Peris went out to hear a band he liked which happened to be playing at the “You Ball” fundraiser for the nonprofit organization, Youth Opportunities Upheld (You, Inc.). He was unaware of You, Inc. at the time, but when he ran late for the event, he was placed at the only open seat left – right beside the organization’s then-CEO, Moe Boisvert. A few hours later, Peris knew a great deal about You, Inc.
You, Inc. is a child welfare and behavioral health organization that has been providing aid to Worcester County area children, teens and families since 1971. Its present slate of services spans 32 sites, and includes family support networks, education and employment, residential care, community-based services, and behavioral health services.
Peris was impressed with the personal testimonies given by clients as part of the You Ball affair. He was also drawn in by Boisvert’s strong portrayal of the widespread good You, Inc. does via their myriad of multifaceted support services.
By the end of the night, he was asking what he could do to help. Peris has been an active member of the You Ball Committee ever since, helping with marketing, fundraising, sponsor procurement and more. He also currently serves on You, Inc.’s Board of Directors, where he lends his professional knowledge of employee benefits issues in an advisement role.
Although it was Boisvert’s commentary that largely lured him to volunteer, Peris said it’s his positive experience with You, Inc.’s devoted team, and the good work that the organization does, that keeps him involved.
“It’s been a good learning experience,” he said. “It’s the positive influence you can have on folks who might not have had the opportunity to do the things they’re doing; they might not have the support in their family structure. You can hope that the work of the organization is going to have a positive influence on their life so they can be productive in society, a contributor, and present themselves with good career opportunities and have a good life.”
Peris’s affinity for volunteering to help others might be genetic. His mother recently took in a foster child with multiple challenges who thrived under her loving care. Peris got to know the boy, who was also receiving services through You, Inc.
“The kid was in You, Inc.’s after school program, so it was kind of nice to see someone you knew directly who was being helped by the organization,” he said.
Peris is now busy scrambling around with preparations for this year’s You Inc. Gala for Youth which will be held Saturday, Nov. 8, at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. Anyone interested in donating to the cause or becoming a sponsor can call 508-849-5600, ext. 286, or visit www.youinc.org.