NEW CASTLE — Highlighting the difference that young volunteers make in their communities, Gov. John Carney presented the Governor’s Youth Volunteer Service Awards virtually to 10 individuals, four groups and five emerging leaders in recognition of their service to Delaware.
In the past year, the State Office of Volunteerism programs worked with a total of 3,544 individual volunteers reporting 643,863 hours of service to the state of Delaware. In economic terms, those volunteers contributed $29 million in service to Delaware and its residents.
Honorees were announced during a Facebook Live broadcast on Thursday and their stories will be told during a virtual ceremony to air during the 2021 Delaware Volunteerism Conference on Aug. 26. Those who will not be attending the conference, but are interested in viewing this event can view it for free on the Volunteer Delaware Facebook page or online beginning immediately after the end of the conference.
Brian Alleyne Jr., New Castle County
Brian volunteers at The Warehouse as a Youth Ambassador and provides daily upkeep and landscaping assistance to the facilities department. Brian also assists the facilities department with daily sanitization of the inside of the facility, keeping the building in line with COVID-19 protocols.
Ashley Burns, Kent County
Ashley made thank-you cards that were distributed to first responders; hats and scarves using a crotchet loom for people experiencing homelessness; and no-sew blankets that were distributed to various organizations. She collected canned foods that were given to USO Delaware Community Center.
Emily Chesser, Kent County
Emily spends much of her time knitting beautiful hats and scarves for people experiencing homelessness. She has also collected candy for Stockings for Soldiers and participated in a project with HeartArt making cards. Emily made more than 100 thank-you cards to send to veterans, active-duty soldiers and first responders. She helped with Polytech High School’s Candy-Gram event, in which candy was collected to donate to the Milford Veterans Home.
Brynn Hovatter, Sussex County
Brynn is a member of the 4-H club, Cypress Heart and Hands, and has been able to attend monthly nursing home visits, annual Adopt-A-Family festivities, and Meals on Wheels.
Merve Kekik, New Castle County
Merve has been a regular volunteer with Zakat Foundation of America and has been actively involved in various projects to serve the community. Merve has helped Zakat Foundation by packing hundreds of boxes with nonperishable food and hygiene items and delivering them door-to-door in Wilmington.
Ava Rudishvahca, Kent County
Ava volunteers with Embrace Delaware, where she serves those affected by disabilities. She has built a friendship with a child who is on the autism spectrum and struggles to makes friends. Ava shows up not only at Embrace Delaware events but also stops by to see her friend with autism at their house.
Aidan Stephen, Kent County
Aidan spends his Saturdays and Sundays at the Delaware State Fire School from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. training to be a firefighter and emergency medical responder. He also actively volunteers with the fire company auxiliary to help with food service and COVID-19 protocol to ensure a safe environment.
Adithcharan Thyagarajan, New Castle County
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Adith conducted a Computer for Kids drive. He raised enough funds to donate more than 70 computers through the Urban Promise Organization in Wilmington. Urban Promise is a nonprofit organization that educates and helps low-income family students.
Aminah Washington, New Castle County
Aminah demonstrated her commitment to social activism by walking 2.23 miles in memory of Ahmad Aubrey. She created signs and peacefully protested the unjust killing of George Floyd. She leads her siblings and cousins in a family service project bi-annually in which bags with toiletries, hand warmers, snacks, feminine supplies and socks are assembled to hand out to individuals experiencing homelessness.
Shanell Wooten, New Castle County
Shanell has volunteered over 125 hours with various communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She has sorted, lifted, and provided food, gloves, toothbrushes, toothpaste, gift cards and more to hundreds of families. She also organized a sock drive, word search and goodie bag drive for elderly citizens.
Early College High School Hornets in Action, New Castle, Kent and Sussex County
The Early College High School Hornets in Action volunteered 350 hours putting together the Manna Bags project. Students collected personal care items, such as soaps, lotions, creams, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers, wipes, and socks among many other items. The group assembled and sorted all items and assembled personal bags.
Masks from the Heart, New Castle, Sussex, Kent County
During a critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic, Masks from the Heart provided protective facial coverings to more 2,000 individuals. When school and sports were canceled, Brynn String and Mylee Wilkie (both age 13) found a need in the community and spent hours sewing, organizing, gathering supplies and distributing facial coverings to first responders, nursing homes, hospitals, fire departments and more.
Students at St. Mary Magdalen School, New Castle County
The students at St. Mary Magdalen School participated in many projects. They collected donations to help feed the hungry and packed more than 160 brown bag lunches and 120 goody bags for the children in Ministry of Caring shelters and child care centers. The students created inspirational messages on each bag. They made more than 30 fleece blankets, made 24 pounds of fruit salad and collected cases of baby wipes.
Zakat Foundation Team with a Dream, New Castle County
The Team with a Dream fed many families and children, distributed paper products, hygiene kits, winter relief items, masks and gloves to various organizations and communities throughout Delaware.
The young members of the team coordinated with each other to organize the hygiene kit drive and the Knit for the Needy projects to collect all the items needed. In partnership with Family Promise of Delaware, the team served hot dinners to families experiencing homelessness who are temporarily staying in motels.
Layla Gainer, Sussex County
Layla is the founder of Project Sparkle On, Inc. Layla, now 10 years old, has made it her mission to inspire others to join her on her kindness crusade and to inspire other kids to participate in various community service endeavors with her. Through her organization, Layla has raised money to buy 500 superhero capes for hospitalized children to wear in their “Be the Impact Day” event, as well as to send handmade Christmas cards to military troops overseas through their project “The Dear Soldier Crusade.”
Arjan Kahlon, New Castle County
Arjan saw the disparate ways in which school nurses were recording details about COVID-19 cases and suspected COVID-19 cases and realized the need for an organized system to monitor the cases at each school. Volunteering to find a solution, Arjan consulted with an epidemiologist at ChristianaCare and developed a system for the nurses to record and track important information from parents, doctors, the schools and the Delaware Division of Public Health. This allowed school nurses to effectively communicate when students were safe to return to in-person learning. This system has since been implemented by schools servicing nearly 1,500 students.
Divita Taduvayi, New Castle County
Divita is the founder and president of Girls Tech Together, an international nonprofit organization that introduces elementary girls to computer science through a novel, interactive curriculum. Through this organization, Divita has taught more than 150 girls through a 10-week program and has also established several chapters globally.
Abigale Townsend, New Castle County
Abigale has completed hundreds of hours of volunteer work and service both during the year 2020 and throughout her high school career. Abby hosted a School Supplies Drive for the organization Urban Promise Wilmington; sent letters of encouragement to behavioral health hospital patients at Wilmington Hospital; and sent Valentine treat bags to church members with disabilities and to Alzheimer’s patients at ChristianaCare. More than 350 school supplies were donated to Urban Promise Wilmington’s school; 70 Alzheimer’s and elderly hospital patients received Valentine treat bags/words of encouragement; and behavioral health patients received Christmas cards and letters of encouragement.
Ann Stewart Wall, New Castle County
Ann Stewart took the initiative to preserve the Christmas in Odessa tradition of fresh greens sales and created a record of the process, which up until now, has been an oral tradition. Her goal was to gather information from past greens sales and create a digital record that can be passed along to the next Christmas in Odessa and Greens chairpersons. Ann Stewart not only created a digital record of the past and present, but also led wreath-making events prior to the main event.