More than 100 people applauded local students at Hands4Hope’s fifth annual Youth Recognition Dinner on Saturday night, Aug. 17, at the El Dorado Hills Community Services District.
Youth volunteers with Hands4Hope were recognized for collectively dedicating 6,700 hours of service to those in need in our community over the 2012-13 year. Additionally, several local youth were singled out for going above and beyond in their service and leadership efforts according to Jennifer Bassett, founder and executive director of Hands4Hope – Youth Making a Difference.
Outgoing Youth Board President Emily Abraham assisted Bassett in emceeing the event and noted some of the highlights of last year’s Club program. Just to name of few, Ponderosa Club put together a Fiesta Night to benefit New Morning Shelter and raised more than $1,100; Union Mine students successfully completed their first fundraiser benefitting the Boys and Girls Club and Fat Kitty City; Jesuit collected and handed out more than 350 articles of winter clothing to teens and men in need. Oak Ridge held a candy gram fundraiser to benefit the Twin Lakes Food Bank that raised $250; had clothing drives for foster children and collected 52 bags of clothing; collected letters to soldiers for care packages; had a dress drive for teen girls who couldn’t otherwise afford a dress, collecting 120 dresses and 30 pairs of shoes, and accessories; collected toiletries, clothes and baby items for a baby shower for homeless and in-need mothers; and introduced the program Focus on the Elderly to provide blankets and other needed items for seniors at a low-income elderly housing development.
The middle schools also contributed greatly with the Rolling Hills Club hosting a bake sale and raising more than $1,000 for Heifer Project and Marina Village Club selling hot chocolate before school to raise enough to purchase a water system for a village in a third world country. It was a very exciting and productive year. Not allowing themselves to be left out, the elementary schools Oak Meadow, William Brooks, Silva Valley and Jackson held very successful drives for warm clothing and blankets in the fall and toiletries in the spring.
In addition to the club and school activities, Hands4Hope’s after-school program continued supporting the greater Sacramento and El Dorado County homeless communities; held community drives for toiletries, clothing and items to fill care packages for U.S. soldiers; mentored at-risk youth in El Dorado County and distributed food bi-monthly at two separate food distribution locations.
“We have so many wonderful youth who volunteer with us and give incredible amounts time to the serving others,” said Bassett. “They are kind and generous with those they serve and with each other and they inspire me and so many others everyday. Because of this selflessness, it is important to make sure they know how special they are to this community and how much they are impacting those they serve.”
Ensuring that the young people in attendance understand their importance, Shannon Bezak, director of Hope House in El Dorado County and the evenings guest speaker told the youth, “The partnership between H4H and organizations like HH is what works towards changing lives. I know you hear this a lot, but please do not underestimate the truth and power in the statement that YOU, the serving youth are the generation that will make a difference, you ARE making a difference.”
Hands4Hope board members at the event included Pam Bartlett, former vice principal of Oak Ridge High School; Charles Sharp of Blue Shield; T Abraham with Marshall Medical Center; Inga Buckendorf, Kimberly Rumph and youth representatives Kirsti Buckendorf, Emily Abraham and Julia Phillips.
The Youth Board was out in force, represented by incoming President Julia Phillips from Ponderosa High School, Vice President David Enzler from Union Mine High, Treasurer Haley Lehtola from Oak Ridge High, Secretary Erica Latraub from Folsom High, and club leaders from those area high school as well as Jesuit and Mira Loma high schools.
Kirsti Buckendorf, with 237 hours served, Andrew Bassett with 188 hours, Sam Phelan with 170, Sarah Reinhart with 162, Julia Phillips with 161, Emily Abraham with 137, Chieme Ohanele with 125 and Haley Lehtola with 125 hours served received not only a Platinum Award from H4H for serving 100-plus hours, but also the Presidential Service Award from the office of President Obama, which included a personalized certificate of achievement and a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States. Jacob Bassett , 14, and Brayden Kono, 12, received a Gold Award from H4H and the Presidential Service Award for serving 50-plus hours.
To receive the Presidential Service Award, youth younger than 14 must have logged 50 or more volunteer hours to be eligible, and youth 15 and older must have logged 100-plus hours.
Additionally, 11 youth received the Gold Award for serving 50 to 99 hours, 17 received the Silver Award for serving 30 to 49 hours, and eight received the Bronze Award for serving 15 to 29 hours.
Hands4Hope is a non-profit, non-denominational, youth-driven outreach organization based in El Dorado Hills. The organization’s mission is to empower youth, grades K-12, to make a positive difference in the world around them through exploration, action and leadership. For more information visit hands4hopeyouth.org or call Jennifer Bassett at (916) 919-5695.