In March 2020, after a deadly tornado and the onset of COVID-19 hit his community hard, Yusuf assumed multiple courses of action. Not only did he sew masks to give out to anyone in need, when he saw families struggling to make ends meet in the pandemic he helped assemble and safely distribute more than 1,500 boxes of food to people in need.
Diagnosed with autism at an early age, Maria understands the stresses people like her endure in ordinary circumstances. Pre-pandemic, her Heavy Hugs Weighted Blankets for Autism program was a unique form of compassionate outreach. Now, in extraordinary times, she continues to help others by donating hand-sewn masks for children to pediatric centers in her community.
Alexa works with the MEANS Database, an organization that distributes excess food from stores and restaurants to people in need. As the youngest member on the team, she quickly assumed many responsibilities — from handling coding to managing food logistics. And this year, she stepped up in a big way — helping her team move about 200,000 pounds of food to meet increased need during the pandemic.
Ashini founded Reading Rainforest and Students to Scientists, two organizations that work to bridge literacy and STEM gaps for low-income children. From its humble beginning in the storage room of a local homeless shelter, Reading Rainforest now consists of five libraries with more than 6,000 books ready to be loaned to children. And Students to Scientists continues to conduct virtual sessions to inspire children from all walks of life with the wonders of science.
Janya’s passion for agriculture and service has proven infectious in her hometown. Not only has her community garden helped to meet the needs of the less fortunate, her lessons have taught others how to build their own gardens — a valuable skill in any time, but especially so during the pandemic. Now she sees her neighbors providing for themselves even as local stores face food shortages. She continues to tend the garden today, distributing its yield to elderly community members.
Soon after learning about food disparities some children in her community faced when they were away from school on weekends, Erin started a supplemental nutrition program to help them fight their hunger. And when COVID-19 hit, she knew that fight would only get tougher — so she stepped up her efforts. Working with her school and her 4-H mentors, she adapted the program to deliver eight meals weekly. In the future, she hopes to create a scalable program that can provide assistance to communities across the country.