King congratulates winners of Spirit of Community Awards

Sen. Angus King
Sen. Angus King
Posted Feb. 09, 2013, at 12:45 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 10, 2013, at 7:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Maine’s independent U.S. Senator on Saturday congratulated two Cumberland County youths who were named the top youth volunteers in the state for 2013 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.

Katherine Elliott, 18, of Scarborough and Marissa Bates, 10, of Westbrook were named winners of the award on Wednesday, according to a press release issued by King’s office.

A senior at Scarborough High School, Elliott recruits fellow students to help her conduct a community collection drive each month to benefit local charitable organizations, according to information posted on the website for the awards. In November 2011, she established her own charity called the Driving Force.

Each month, she picks one nonprofit to support, contacts its officials to determine what they need most, and then asks area teenagers to help her collect and deliver donations. Elliott created a Facebook page that she uses to communicate with her volunteers, and publicizes her drives by hanging posters and stuffing mailboxes. So far, her drives have benefited a Ronald McDonald House, the Salvation Army, the Preble Street Soup Kitchen, the Center for Grieving Children, the Animal Refuge League, the Lighthouse Shelter, Children’s Miracle Network, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, the award website said.

“So many people rely on all of these organizations for different reasons,” Elliott wrote to the awards program, “and these nonprofits would not be able to stay afloat without outside support.”

Bates, a fifth-grader at Westbrook Middle School and a Girl Scout, came up with the idea of a mitten tree to distribute mittens and warm hats to students who need them, according to the awards program website.

“I noticed that a lot of kids at school had no hat or mittens,” the girl told the program. “I wanted to help my classmates stay warm.”

Her Girl Scout troop agreed to work with her on the project. After collecting donations of mittens and hats from friends and family members, the scouts set up a tree at an elementary school. The project expanded to more locations and a local dry cleaning company to help keep the trees stocked all winter.

“Any kid can get what they need when they need it without asking,” Bates said on the website. “No one in our community goes without warm hats or mittens anymore.”

The girls each will receive a $1,000 prize, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top honorees from each state and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events, the release said. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2013.

“It is just remarkable what these two young ladies have accomplished,” King said. “The degree of personal initiative, leadership and dedication to volunteerism they each demonstrate is simply inspirational. Their seemingly endless acts of generosity reflect an innate understanding and appreciation for the value of civic engagement. I have no doubt that these two will continue to do great things, and I hope to meet with them when they travel to D.C. this spring.”

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents is the nation’s largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service, the release said. All public and private middle and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award.

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