On September 27, 2012, AmyLynn “Al” Harrington Smoot was presented with the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award from the Youth & Family Services Network, a national organization that provides training, technical assistance and support to local organizations serving youth and families. Al received the award at a luncheon in New Orleans.
Al works with the Capital City Youth Services (CCYS) which provides shelter and counseling for at-risk young people, including runaways, ages 10 to 17. CCYS is the only shelter for this age group in Leon County and the seven surrounding counties. CCYS also provides counseling, free of charge to families struggling with issues relating to teenagers. CCYS offers teenagers a “time out” so they can either work out their issues or get out of a dangerous home environment.
Over the past two years, Al has been the Gala Director for the Tally Awards, a local competition to recognize Tallahassee’s favorite businesses. The Tally Award is a fundraiser for CCYS. At a formal black and white Gala, the awards were presented in the “Academy Awards” style. Butler’s partner, Kathy Maus was one of the “celebrity” presenters during the program. The event was attended by Butler partners, Bill Wallis and Gina Smith.
In addition to her work at The Tally Awards, Al holds monthly drama workshops with the teens at the CCYS shelter. Utilizing her background in theatre, Al uses improvisation and scene creation to encourage youngsters to “think outside the box” and also laugh. The stress of their lives and home situations can be overwhelming, and the workshops allow these young people a break from their tragic situations.
Al is also working with a contingent of CCYS personnel who hope to provide shelter for teenagers trapped in the sex-traffic trade. Al has been meeting with counselors and law enforcement officials to formulate a plan to provide services and a safe place for these teens.
A couple of years ago, I wanted to become more involved in Tallahassee and work with a non-profit organization. My friend Melanie, who works for CCYS, encouraged me to take on the roll of Gala Director for the Tally Awards. The Tally awards recognize Tallahassee’s favorite restaurants, service providers, physicians, florists, etc. The award process culminates in a Gala held once a year. I took on the task of planning the Gala including the entertainment and creating an “Academy Awards”, black and white formal atmosphere for the event. From there, I became more involved with the organization
The teenage years are difficult for parents and teens. There is so much turmoil. CCYS provides a much-needed service to these “at-risk” kids and their families. Every time I am with the teens, I learn more about myself. The creative process is good for us all – especially the laughter part!
The meetings for the Tally Awards are once a week throughout the year. I also conduct drama workshops with teenagers in the shelter once a month. My meetings with the counselors occur about once a quarter.
Giving these teenagers a safe place to go, along with providing counseling during these trying times, is essential. By offering shelter to these teens, we can attempt to keep them out of the juvenile justice system. Many of them have been abused and need to learn to trust again. CCYS provides assistance to the families of the teens, at no cost, so the family can heal.
I hope to become more involved in the transitional living center which will help teens to learn about independent living. So many of them have been in foster care or have had unstable living environments, so they do not know the basics of living – balancing a checkbook, applying for a job, keeping a place clean, taking care of themselves and eating healthy. All of these life skills are important. As the funds become available to build the transitional living center, I hope to be involved in some of the programs that are put in place. I also hope to assist CCYS in educating others about how to provide assistance to children who have been trafficked for sex. Providing a truly safe place where they can heal is essential.