MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Alabama's top two youth volunteers of 2020, Lindsey Wood, 17, of Thorsby and Brooke Bennett, 12, of Montgomery, were recognized this weekend for their outstanding volunteer service during the 25th annual, and first-ever virtual, Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national recognition celebration.
In recognition of the spirit of service that they have demonstrated in their communities, Lindsey and Brooke – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – were also each given $2,500 to donate toward the local COVID-19 response efforts of a nonprofit organization of their choice. These funds come in addition to the $1,000 scholarship and engraved silver medallion they earned as Alabama's top youth volunteers of 2020.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Lindsey and Brooke Alabama's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February.
"Over the past 25 years, this program has honored students spanning three generations, and the common thread between them has been the determination of young people to respond to the challenges of the moment," said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "Who better than this group of young leaders from all over the country to help identify and direct resources to community needs arising from COVID-19?"
As State Honorees, Lindsey and Brooke also earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the program's annual national recognition events; the trip, however, was canceled due to COVID-19 and changed to a three-day online celebration this past weekend. In addition to remarks and congratulations from actress Kristen Bell, honorees had opportunities to connect with each other through online project-sharing sessions, learn about service and advocacy from accomplished past Spirit of Community honorees, hear congratulatory remarks from Lowrey and NASSP Executive Director and CEO JoAnn Bartoletti, and more.
"We admire these young leaders for their ability to assess the needs of the communities they serve and find meaningful ways to address them," said Bartoletti. "At a time when everyone is looking for optimism, these students are a bright light for their peers and the adults in their lives."
About the Honorees
Lindsey (pictured left), a junior at Thorsby High School, has made and sold more than 10,000 hair bows over the past seven years to provide more than $8,000 worth of essential items for children entering the foster care system. Lindsey was inspired to create her "Bows That Bless" initiative by her best friend, who was adopted after being in foster care. From conversations with her friend and her adoptive mother, Lindsey said she learned that "when children enter foster care, they usually have nothing more than the clothes on their backs." Coincidentally, at about the same time, Lindsey learned how to sew hair bows and realized that she could help foster kids by selling her handmade creations.
She sells each bow, which takes about five minutes to make, at schools, festivals and boutiques. She also hosts bow-making parties to encourage other students to raise money for local foster parents, and organizes breakfasts for National Foster Care Month and National Adoption Month. With the money she raises, Lindsey fills backpacks or diaper bags with items such as clothing, pajamas, bottles, blankets and stuffed animals, and donates them to agencies that place children with foster parents. "This makes the process of entering foster care more comforting and smoother for the children," said Lindsey. In addition, she helps organize countywide clothing drives for a children's home, speaks at schools to advocate on behalf of foster children, and volunteers at a foster care camp each year. She also created a $1,000 scholarship for a high school senior who has been in foster care.
Brooke (pictured right), a seventh-grader at Saint James School, has worked with her twin, Breanna, and a team of volunteers to assemble and distribute approximately 200 bags of feminine hygiene products and toiletries every month to girls who otherwise might have to miss school during their periods because they can't afford personal care products. Their mother used to work at a school in a low-income area, and often took personal care items to school because many girls there couldn't buy their own. "I thought that girls at other schools must be having the same problem," said Brooke. From research, she learned that "period poverty" keeps 20 percent of girls out of school during their monthly cycle because they don't have the proper protection. "People often think this is a problem that affects only poor girls in Africa, Asia and South America," said Brooke. "However, girls right here in Alabama and throughout the United States suffer, too."
So Brooke persuaded her sister to help her address this need. Last July, on their 12th birthday, they asked for donations instead of gifts, and convinced friends to do the same. After recruiting a group of student and adult volunteers and filing for nonprofit status for their charity, "Women In Training, Inc. (WIT)," the sisters began collecting monetary and product donations through Facebook, a GoFundMe page and media interviews. Every month, the sisters and a team of volunteers assemble "WITKITS" that include sanitary napkins, tampons, wet wipes, lotion, deodorant and other toiletries, which are then distributed to girls in need. An important component of their project is education, so they published a brochure for young women about the menstrual cycle, and recruited an OB-GYN to conduct menstrual education workshops.
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 25 years, the program has honored more than 130,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level. For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year's honorees, visit http://spirit.prudential.com. For more information about the National Association of Secondary School Principals, visit www.nassp.org. For more information about Prudential Financial, visit www.news.prudential.com.
Learn more at spirit.prudential.com
SOURCE Prudential Financial, Inc.