They’re among 40 worldwide recipients to receive the $500 Get Ur Good On Grant from Youth Service America and celebrity supporter Miley Cyrus. The grants provide money to young people around the world who seek to improve their communities through service.
Garland, along with Janae Jones, 16, of Marietta High School; Deonte Rivers, 16, of Osborne High School; Andre Jones, 15, of Wheeler High School; and Hannah Scott, 15, of Marietta High School, chose to assist the nonprofit, Bountiful Bags, in feeding more than 1,000 refugee children from war-torn countries in Clarkston.
From now until July 24, the students plan to raise money and create drop-off locations for food donations. The first drop-off point is Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church at 5140 Memorial Drive in Stone Mountain.
“I like their mission, helping to alleviate childhood hunger,” Garland, who is homeschooled, said of Bountiful Bags. “They partner with over 60 countries that have refugees in the Greater Atlanta area.”
In January, Bountiful Bags was founded by teachers Caitlin Hill and Diana Lam who wanted to help their school, Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston, where most students are immigrants from 52 countries, including Iraq, Somalia, Vietnam, Sudan and Bosnia.
“Many of the children have lived most of their lives in refugee camps fleeing war, persecution or political conflicts…in many situations, the families arrive with no possessions and know no one,” said Hill.
“We reached out to several churches in the area for support and received an immediate response from Chris Henry, the pastor at Shallowford Presbyterian Church. He put us in touch with George Tatro, a pastor at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, and together we have gotten to where we are now.”
During the second half of the 2011-12 school year, Bountiful Bags provided 65 students at the school with backpacks filled with food for the weekends. The backpacks were packed every Thursday at Memorial Drive Presbyterian, with the help of about 40 church and school volunteers.
Clothing, books and school supplies are also provided by Bountiful Bags, which recently began a family summer bag program that directly delivers weekly bags of food to 20 families at apartment complexes.
Garland and his friends have known each other for many years. Together, they formed a youth group called Dunamai, which they say translates to “I am powerful” in Greek. Through the group, they offer each other assistance and support in their shared goal of gaining scholarships to attend college.
“It’s hard to focus because of the distractions, but if you want something then you’re going to go get it,” said Andre.
In applying and earning the Get Ur Good On Grant, they hope to initiate other service projects. The $500 grant will be used for the food drive, and to market a fashion show fundraiser and celebration from 6:30 – 8 p.m. July 25 at Shallowford Presbyterian Church, 2375 Shallowford Road NE, Atlanta. Non-perishable foods or books are requested at the free event.
Donations to the food drive can be made online at www.crownedforvictory.org. To learn more about Bountiful Bags, visit bountifulbags.blogspot.com.