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Celebrate Volunteers, the Spirit of America!

Does your school ever ask you and your family to help other people? Students from Camden's Promise Charter School in New Jersey collected canned food and clothing for needy people. They also helped collect 20,000 books for a local charity.

Jesse Coltrane, a student at Camden's Promise, says that kids can help people through school and community projects. During National Volunteer Week (the last week of April), thousands of students work in their schools and communities to make the world a better place. A volunteer is someone who does helpful work without pay.

Uniting Kids across America

National Volunteer Week began over 30 years ago. During that week, kids across the United States take part in projects to make life easier for people in their community.

“Volunteers learn important skills like teamwork and responsibility,” said Melissa Helmbrecht. She is the founder of the volunteer organization Champions of Hope. “When you help America become strong, you become an instant champion!”

Champions of Hope is made up of more than 650,000 kids across the country. The group includes Jesse Coltrane and other students at her school. Champions of Hope volunteers help collect food for the hungry, clean parks, and raise money for firefighters.

A Hobbit Answers the Call

Champions of Hope started a United Day of Service on September 11, 2002, one year after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. On that day, actor Sean Astin, who plays a hobbit in recent movies, spoke to kids at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He discussed the importance of being good citizens. It is our responsibility to keep making the world a better place,” said Astin. “We can do that by helping others.”

Astin was asked to join the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. President George W. Bush created the council to encourage people to do volunteer work. President Bush has asked Americans to make a lifetime promise to volunteer.

Astin told kids that it's easy to make a difference. As a teenager in California, he volunteered his time helping preschool students cross the street. He said, “I remember feeling that because I was helping someone, I had an incredible responsibility, and it felt great. It made me a better person.”

Making a Difference

Student Matthew Malon from Illinois attended the September 11, 2002, rally. In his earlier work as a volunteer, he had collected food for homeless shelters. Malon said that Astin's speech made him feel good about his volunteer work.

Some students from Camden's Promise also were at the rally. Students Damian Johnson, Keith Bennett, and Tashay Moody all agreed that it's important for kids to volunteer. As Johnson put it, “Volunteering makes me feel like I have made an impact [had an effect] on people who don't have as much as I have.”