It started out with the simplest of goals -- to put a smile on someone's face.
Monne Lloyd found out that an elderly neighbor's husband died, so she decided to go to her house to read to her. She learned that a neighbor across the street, Pansy Jones, 84, lost her husband years ago and five of her six sons had died over the years. So she decided to read to her, too.
In May, Monne wrote a letter to the seniors in her Woodridge neighborhood in Northeast Washington, telling them that if they'd like someone to read to them and spend time with them, she was available. She included several letters of recommendation -- one from her mother, another from her kindergarten teacher.
Monne is 8.
But she has adult-size ambitions. Four seniors on her block read the letter and agreed to have the third-grader visit, and Monne spent most of the summer reading to them, a project she's taken so seriously that she got her mother's boyfriend to help think of a name for it. It's called Passion Flower.
"I like flowers, and I'm passion," Monne explained last week, as she skipped along the sidewalk in her light-blue sneakers on a reading trip.
After deciding against going to summer camp this year so she could read to the seniors, she decided to continue her work during the school year. Now, she spends parts of her weekends and holidays at the homes of her elderly neighbors, reading to them from some of her favorite books, such as "Junior Woodchuck Jamboree."
"I wanted to share my books and share everything with them that I know," said Monne, who attends Friendship-Edison Public Charter School. "I just like doing these things."
Passion Flower is a work in progress, but Monne knows that she wants to recruit other children and their parents to visit hospitals and senior centers and read to the young and the old. She even has her own e-mail address for the group (Passionflower008@aol.com).
Her mother, Saymendy Lloyd, 36, founder of the District-based Women's Wing Organization, is considering making Passion Flower part of her advocacy group or establishing it as its own nonprofit.
Lloyd said she didn't want to overlook her daughter's idea just because it came from a child. She said the world needs all the ideas it can get, especially when it comes to helping others. "Parents who have these children who have these bright ideas should get together and make it happen," Lloyd said.
When Monne arrived at Jones's home for a visit last week, they sat on the couch and Monne pulled out her "Junior Woodchuck" book and a letter she wrote in pencil in a composition notebook. She read slowly from the letter, which laid out another goal of the group -- to fix the two-story home Jones has lived in for more than 30 years.
"I just want Ms. Pansy to live good because she is old now and she is so nice to everyone," Monne said, reading from the letter. "I want her to live like a star before she dies."
Lloyd said she wants to help her daughter refurbish the green-painted house. They have talked about writing a letter to Oprah Winfrey, about asking Home Depot and other companies to donate materials.
Jones is grateful. As Monne sat next to her on the couch, Jones pointed out the five teddy bears and stuffed animals that sit on the top of the couch back, just over Monne's shoulder. Jones bought them to remind her of her five children who died. "Kids always brighten your day," Jones said.
Lloyd is not surprised by her daughter's eagerness to help others.
Lloyd was just a child when she started bringing in homeless people and had them stay at her home in Liberia, where she was raised. After moving to the United States in 1985 amid the Liberian civil war, Lloyd opened her home to a group of stranded Ugandan merchants. The merchants, dubbed the Uganda 25, were lured to the Washington area in 2002 in a trade venture gone bad, and Lloyd squeezed 12 of them into her house, already bursting with her four children and one adopted child.
Monne turned 6 during the seven months the Ugandan merchants stayed at her house. It wasn't long before she formed her first group, the Wilson Sisters.
That was a group of second-grade friends at the school Monne used to attend, Thurgood Marshall Elementary. The friends got together to help the cafeteria lady clean the lunchroom. They occasionally sang and danced, too. "They named the group after the principal," Lloyd said.
Soon it was time to leave Jones. But Monne was preoccupied, standing in Jones's dining room reading the plaques on one wall. She read them out loud. "A house is made of brick," Monne read, "but a home is made of love."