A community's needs may vary, but York County is rarely short of volunteers willing to meet them, no matter how big or how small.

Sometimes, these acts of kindness can have long-lasting, even life-changing effects.

Two such opportunities exist now.

The Juvenile Division of York County Probation Services needs volunteers to serve on its Youth Aid Panels, which allow troubled children to avoid the stigma of permanent criminal records by having their cases handled by community members rather than the court.

The volunteers – three to four to a panel – come from the youths' own communities. They interview the child, then decide the appropriate punishment – such as community service, restitution, letters of apology and drug and alcohol screenings.

Volunteers can be from any background and profession but must be 18 years of age or older, have no criminal record and successfully pass Pennsylvania child abuse and FBI clearances.

Two training sessions are required, after which the panels meet once per month in the evenings.

York County's 19 Youth Aid Panels save taxpayer money that otherwise would be spent on prosecutions, while still holding children accountable for their actions, making them understand the harm they caused and -- hopefully – inspiring them to change their ways.

Some people don't need inspiration, however – they already want to change and just need someone to share what he or she probably take for granted.

The York County Literacy Council has a waiting list of 41 people who want to improve their reading, writing and speaking skills, but they don't have enough tutors to teach them.

A background in education isn't necessary – volunteers just need to be 18 or over and have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Like the Youth Aid Panels, two training session are required – they're scheduled for Saturday and May 17. After that, the volunteers meet with a student once a week for up to two hours in a public setting arranged by the literacy council.

"These are people who want to make a change in their life, but they need help," said Rita Hewitt, the agency's community relations manager. "They can't do it alone. They want to learn English, learn to read and write and speak. They're really interested in learning and they're ready to work hard at it."

To help a child find the right path in life, contact Lori Petraco at 771-9567 ext. 306 or Kristy Woltman at ext. 357. To help adults improve life skills, contact Hewitt at 845-8719 or email her at cr.mgr@yorkliteracy.org.