Kerri Stephen has been serving her community since the age of six. She began her work in a homeless shelter in Washington DC. Her family volunteered so she did also – matched shoes in a clothing room. Her efforts have only increased since that young age and her work has opened the eyes of many to the plight of the homeless, especially the children.
Kerri’s mother became director of a 30-bed Homeless Prevention Center operated by Volunteers of America Chesapeake in Woodbridge, Virginia in 1990. At that time, Kerri immediately began to offer her time by becoming a friend and a supporter to the children living at the Center. Kerri was a welcome friend to some who were shunned because they did not have a home. In 1995, when Kerri was twelve, she and three former residents her age asked for formalize an AfterShare Kids as in independent program. AfterShare had already been started at the center. It is a unique program of support and service for former residents of the shelter that come back to volunteer.
With Kerri’s guidance, the group did create their own program with their own missions. They also solicited donations so their activities would have funding. AfterShare Kids gave a presentation to a local restaurant which resulted in a donation of several thousand dollars. They used this money to purchase their own computer and began to collect writings by children about being homeless. Their work was displayed at the AfterShare Kids first speaking engagement in 1996.
Kerri was recognized for her genuine spirit and effort and was honored with the JCPenney National Golden Rule Award. She continued her work with AfterShare Kids, and in 1997, Kerri organized a collection and distribution of winter clothes for needy children as a “Make a Difference Day” project. Residents joined in and assisted the AfterShare Kids. They sorted clothes and boosted their self-esteem because their aid helped themselves and over 350 other children. The AfterShare Kids program was a success and they were awarded $2,000 for their program. In 1998, they launched a Web site that is shared with their “parent organization,” and they raised over $2,400 towards furnishings for the Center’s up and coming move to a new building. In addition to this, speaking engagements included an elementary school that raised $5,000 to benefit homeless families.
In January of 1999, Kerri was named the second most influential person in the county by a local paper. She was also filmed by Napro Productions along with other AfterShare Kids for EXPLORIS, which is a Raleigh, North Carolina children’s museum. The documentary is used by Volunteers of America Chesapeake as a tool to educate others about the plight of homeless children in America. Kerri was also taped for the “Nick News” show in September of the same year.
Kerri’s friendships resulted in a relatively new AfterShare Kid gaining the self-confidence to represent homeless children at the National Coalition for the Homeless’s 1999 Forget Me Not Campaign. At the young age of 16, Kerri has done many things most adults have not. She has volunteered a decade of her life to focus on giving homeless youth of all ages a feeling of love and self-worth. Kerri has touched the lives of thousands of homeless people and will continue to touch many more.