Engraved medallions are given to the youth volunteers honored with The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. / Submitted photo
• Cara Crawford, 18, of Brandon, a senior at Jackson Prep, co-sponsored a 5K race shortly after her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and raised nearly $13,000 for cancer research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Crawford, who recruited more than 300 participants and coordinated sponsorships and marketing, developed the project with her friend whose father also received a cancer diagnosis.
• Nicholas Myers, 17, of Gulfport, a senior at Gulfport High School, co-founded “KickItForward,” a program that has assembled and delivered more than 100 gift baskets for young patients undergoing chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital. Myers, who wanted to help the kids he met while being treated for leukemia, held drives to collect blankets, Christmas toys, Easter baskets and Halloween baskets.
• Anne-Marie Prochaska, 17, of Senatobia, a member of the Northwest Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross and a junior at Faith Heritage Academy, raised more than $4,500 by hosting a charity 5K race to support the HOPE (Helping Other People in Emergency) Ministry, which provides food, clothing and utility bill assistance to people in emergency situations.
• Katelyn Roberts, 18, of Brookhaven, a senior at West Lincoln Attendance Center, has given her time over the years as a volunteer at King’s Daughters’ Medical Center and Brookhaven Animal Rescue League, as stage manager for the Brookhaven Little Theatre, to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House and to collect toys for Toys for Tots.
A Biloxi teen who collected more than 500 pairs of shoes and socks for the homeless and a eighth-grader who led a successful recycling effort in the small town of Belmont have won top youth volunteer honors for Mississippi in a national awards program.
Reagan Norwood, 17, of Biloxi and Jonah Holland, 14, of Belmont each will receive a $1,000 award, engraved medallion and trip to the nation’s capital as part of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Honors also were bestowed on youth volunteers in Brandon, Gulfport, Senatobia and Brookhaven.
Norwood, a junior at Biloxi High School, collected the items for homeless people over the past four years through her project, “S.O.S. (Shoes or Socks) for the Homeless.” She first became aware of the problem of homelessness by listening to stories her grandfather told about working at a shelter in Washington, D.C. Then, one Christmas, her family took toys to a local mission.
“We were allowed to drop off the items but were not allowed in because my sister and I were minors,” Norwood said in a news release.
As she was pondering how children and teens could get involved, a family friend mentioned there was a real need for shoes and socks at homeless shelters.
In eighth grade, Norwood launched her first drive to collect shoes and socks at her school. Since then, she has held drives at other junior high schools, elementary schools, her high school and a local military base. She created a logo for S.O.S. and a Facebook page to acquaint people with homelessness and publicize her mission. She monitors newsletters and updates from agencies that work with the homeless and passes along information about the current needs of the homeless in her community and state, and ways to help.
“S.O.S. is not a program that will save the world,” Norwood said in the release, “but by going through our closets and donating shoes, we can truly make a difference in someone’s life.”
Holland, who is home-schooled, led his 4-H club in raising money to purchase reusable shopping bags local merchants can use to cut down on the number of plastic bags that end up in landfills. His 4-H club had been looking for ways to implement a communitywide recycling program, but because his town, population 2,038, is not near a recycling center, a cost-effective solution proved elusive.
“It was very discouraging and would have been easy to simply forget about it,” Holland said. But he wouldn’t let the idea drop. Holland continued to do research online and joined several forums where people exchange ideas.
“One day while shopping, it hit me that so many merchants offer reusable shopping bags,” Holland said. He wondered, why couldn’t the stores in his community do the same thing?
Holland presented a plan to the City Council that could reduce plastic bag use and promote recycling awareness at no cost to the city. With the town’s endorsement, he and fellow 4-Hers put up a “road block” to ask drivers to donate their change to the cause, and in three hours they raised more than $400.
The group then ordered reusable shopping bags in the local school colors and distributed them to local merchants, who sell them to customers for $2 apiece. A $1 profit on each bag sold will be donated to benefit wounded servicemen, said Holland.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 state honorees will attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. On May 5, 10 of the state honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014. The national honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants.