Quite frequently someone sees or reads something that triggers their desire to help. Less frequently, that person decides to start an organization to meet a need because of that desire to help. Neighbors-4-Neighbors is an example of one of those organizations.
Neighbors-4-Neighbors is a project started by a 16 year old Virginian high school junior named Nicole. She read in her local paper that donations to the food bank in her town were down due to the poor economy while simultaneously the need for food bank services was increasing. Nicole began simply by one act of kindness, deciding to collect food donations from her sub-division of 12. When she delivered her 220 pounds of food to the local food bank, she was told the donation would help feed 178 hungry neighbors. She could have said that she did her good deed and stopped there, but she didn’t.
Instead, she set a goal of a ton of collected food in the name of a new organization named Neighbors-4-Neighbors. By the end of 2009 (just four months after starting), she had secured more than 5 tons (10,000 pounds) of food, including donations from as far away as Hawaii and from the Governor of Alaska’s office. By the end of 2010 she set a goal to have involvement from all 50 states – and has already met that goal.
When asked about her most memorable volunteer experience, Nicole describes, “while dropping off collected donations, someone at the food bank who was utilizing their services said, with tears in her eyes, God Bless You.” Nicole also enjoys how she has inspired a now 8 year old who last year at 7 read her an article about Nicole’s project and decided that she HAD to help. Nicole’s youngest volunteer, Ryleigh, now 8, has collected over a ton of food as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors between her two food drives.
Nicole also serves as one of only four student leaders who will be running a national food drive campaign in schools across the United States in March 2011 as part of Schools Serve, an organization based out of Massachusetts. (Schools Serve was also recently profiled by The Blogunteer).
Individuals, groups, businesses, offices, schools, or anyone can organize a food drive as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors. Nicole has a template for fliers that can be sent to people who might want to do an office or a neighborhood food drive. She also has notices that can be included in food donations to alert the food bank that donations are being provided as part of her national initiative. People, then, email her the amount of donations they have made so that she can register it on a national tally that she meticulously maintains to verify all donations made as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors.
Update: As of October 2012, people have donated more than 372,000 pounds of food as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors. Nicole has set a goal of collecting a 1/2 million pounds of food by the end of 2012. Each October she runs a nation-wide food drive and in March she continues to work with Schools Fight Hunger for school food drives. In November of 2011, Nicole was honored by Glamour magazine as one of their Amazing Young Women.
The mission of The Blogunteer is to inspire volunteerism, Nicole has a very inspiring quote in a recent newspaper article, “There is no better feeling than to go to bed knowing that an action and a simple one at that has made life better for someone else. Everyone should try volunteering. You won’t be able to stop.” Nicole shows people across our country the difference that a single individual can make by simply taking action and instead of closing eyes to a social problem, becoming part of the solution to it.