Note: With the Chestnut Hill Fund Drive in full swing, we checked in with past grantees and their constituents about how the generosity of the community has helped them. This week, we hear from Tyler Perry, who credits Teenagers Inc. with his personal development. Teenagers Inc. received a $14,000 grant to subsidize its programming development and refurbishment of its website. Five hundred teenagers are part of Teenagers Inc.

I am a third-year Interactive Design and Media student at Philadelphia University and former member of Teenagers Inc. Looking back on the past 10 years, I can truly say that without having been a part of Teenager’s Inc., I would not be who I am today.

I got involved through my older brother who would go to the Teen Center every Friday night with his friends when he was in middle school. We both went to Our Mother of Consolation School. I was in the fifth grade and my brother was in seventh grade. What initially attracted me to the Teen Center was the fun that my older brother had always talked about having with his friends.

When I finally did get the chance to go for the first time, it felt great. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and it gave me a sense of belonging. I felt as if I was joining a family and not just a club or an organization, because the relationships that I built with others actually meant something to me.

Aside from hanging out with my friends at the Teen Center, I found myself signing up for volunteering opportunities and community service events organized through Teenagers Inc., not out of obligation, but because I genuinely wanted to be around good people who were doing good things.

The first community service event that I participated in was recycling at the Wyndmoor train station. I would go with my brother and his friends and help the local residents empty their recyclables, and they were always very appreciative of our help. It was a great way to serve the community and become familiar with the people around us. As I became more involved, my interests grew even larger. I began participating in events such as the annual ski trip and whitewater rafting as well as other fundraising events such as Taste of Chestnut Hill and helping at the tables during the Garden Festival.

Being involved in Teenagers Inc. has made me a well-rounded individual and I am truly grateful for that. One of the most important events in my involvement with Teenagers Inc. was the Guatemala Service Trip. I had the opportunity of being a part of the first group from Teenagers Inc. to go on this trip, and it happened during my time as president of the Teen Board. I value this trip so much because it defined for me what it meant to serve others.

This trip also made me realize how fortunate we are as a nation and how much we could do for others. It changed my once shallow views of community service into something much deeper in meaning. We interacted with individuals from extremely impoverished areas and made efforts to make their lives a little easier by doing things such as providing families with clothing, food and shelter.

These were the things that were so important to them, but also what we sometimes take for granted. Aside from giving them the things that they needed, one of the other things I noticed was the sense of community that existed amongst the people of Guatemala. Even though they were underprivileged, they cared for each other and it reminded me of the reasons why I became involved with Teenagers Inc. Not only is it an organization that does community service work, but it is a community of individuals that care for each other and those around them.

Tyler J. Perry

Chestnut Hill

To make a donation to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, visit www.chestnuthill.org or Town Hall at 8434 Germantown Avenue. The Fund Drive will continue through the end of March.