Young people from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who are committed to serving their Olean, New York community came together and formed the Kids Care Club of Cattaraugus County. Many of the children endure poverty and emotional difficulties, but they are still willing to give of their time and efforts to others.
The children range from age 6 to 17 years old and have participated in more than a dozen community service projects throughout the last two years. They are active in local projects like Christmas in April. This project facilitates the painting and repairing of homes of those who are disabled or otherwise in need. Kids Care also is active in fundraising for the local domestic violence shelter, preparing baked goods and donating them to the local homeless shelter from their bake sale. They have also collected hats for kids with cancer, planted vegetable gardens for a local retirement community, collected teddy bears for the Olean police and fire departments to give to traumatized children, and worked with the City of Olean Parks Department. The national programs that the children have participated in are Make A Difference Day, Toys for Tots, and Nickelodeon Big Help.
Many of the children in the club are from low-income families. They know what it is like to have a birthday party and receive no presents. Because of this, The Kids Care Club founded a program entitled Birthday Beacon. This program collects birthday gift boxes and distributes them to needy children. This is an ongoing project, which is supported by the fundraising and donations from other local organizations.
The members of the Kids Care Club of Cattaraugus County are also involved in the Character Counts Coalition. They focus on the Six Pillars of Character: respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, citizenship, fairness, and caring. The Club uses the six pillars of character to help them properly respond to the difficult situations that they may encounter. They have learned through experience that by handling problems this way, they maintain a sense of dignity and pride.
The children also feel the need to encourage adults to recognize the value of children in the community. They share the messages that youth are capable of making a positive difference in their community by facilitating Youth Empowerment seminars. During the seminars, the children share the projects that they have completed, good deeds they have done, or obstacles they have overcome. The facilitator of the club also writes a monthly column, which provides advice for empowering children in the local newspaper.
The Kids Care Club of Cattaraugus County has been recognized for its Make A Difference Day contribution and received the Super Heroes Award from the national Kids Care Club. Despite their honors, the volunteers in the club feel nothing compares to the recognition that they receive from the recipients of their service.