No Age Limit on Helping Others

By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 21, 2008

The first meeting of a philanthropic group for Charles County teenagers began with a question from the student members: What does philanthropy mean?

"I pulled out a dictionary, and we looked it up," said group organizer Gretchen Heinze Hardman, executive director of the Community Foundation of Charles County. "We decided it means 'helping mankind' and then developed it from there."

The group, which formed this fall, is composed of students who belong to a Future Business Leaders of America program at a Charles high school. The students named the group Bling, short for Business Leaders Interested 'N Giving.

They plan to host fundraisers during the academic year. Five of the six high schools in Calvert are participating, and the remaining one, La Plata, plans to join the effort soon. The group hopes that each school will collect $500. Then Bling will pool the money and give it to a Charles nonprofit agency that aids youths.

"We're giving back to the community," said Bling President Tarron Randolph, 18, a senior at Westlake High School in Waldorf.

The process will help the students learn how to evaluate work being done by nonprofit groups as they choose the agency that will receive their money. A new source of funding should be welcomed by charities that are feeling squeezed by the economic downturn, Hardman said.

"I always thought it would be great to get them now, when they are in high school," Hardman said. "It's not just Bill Gates who is a philanthropist. Anyone who gives money is a philanthropist."

While the students are trying to organize fundraisers and select which organization will receive their grant, they are also conducting smaller events. This month they organized food drives at the participating high schools, collecting hundreds of cans of food.

"We only had about a week to collect everything," said Kianna Kimpson, 18, a senior at Westlake High and vice president of Bling. "But we had great turnout at the end."

On Monday, the group gathered at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf to sort through the canned goods and package food for two elderly residents they adopted through the county's Christmas Connections program. They donated other food to pantries in Charles and the District.

"Oh, my Lord! Goodness gracious!" exclaimed Margaret Savoy, 81, when students delivered a laundry basket filled with food and a frozen turkey to her Waldorf apartment. Savoy said that she doesn't have relatives to celebrate Christmas with but that she plans to prepare a holiday dinner with her neighbor.

James R. Yates, 70, of Waldorf also seemed excited when students took food to his apartment. Yates gave each a hug, saying, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

For information about the youth philanthropy program or to nominate an organization for the grant, contact the Charles County Community Foundation at 301-885-0108 or gretchen.heinze@charlescommunityfoundation.org.


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