Kiera Zitelman, 13, an eight-grader at Takoma Park Middle School in Silver Spring, organized an effort to make 60-120 bagged lunches at her church each month and distribute them to a local homeless shelter.
When she was 8 years old, Kiera received a gift of $20 but didn’t know what to do with it, so she donated it to a charity for the homeless. That made her feel so good that she began making and selling greeting cards, and organized a neighborhood concert, which raised another $80 for the cause. She donated that money to Happy Helpers for the Homeless after reading a newspaper article about the group, which was founded in Maryland by former Prudential Spirit of Community honoree Amber Coffman. Amber then asked Kiera to start a chapter in her county, so Kiera recruited a dozen young volunteers at her church to make, bag and distribute lunches for the homeless.
“The most difficult part of this project is getting money to buy food,” said Kiera, who originally received donations from grocery stores, but now relies on donations from church members. Kiera also has conducted canned-food drives for the homeless, and coordinates barbecues and holiday parties with her church group at the homeless shelter.