The Millstone Times June 2021

KIDS Millstone Teen Named Top Youth Volunteer of 2021 Heather Paglia By National Program

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honored an area student with a $2,500 scholarship, silver medallion and invitation to a virtual celebration for her work address- ing the challenges of a changing world. Heather Paglia, 14, of Millstone and an eighth-grader at The Hun School of Princeton, was named NJ's Top Middle Level Volunteer & State Honoree by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service. She was selected as only 1 of 102 national honorees in grades 5-12 out of 21,000+ applicants. Heather helped to raise more than $150,000 to support small businesses, frontline work- ers, senior citizens, veterans, and others impacted by COVID-19. She and her brother, Drew (17), co-founded 5Help Foundation, a NJ Nonprofit Corporation 501(c) (3) in March 2020. When many local restaurants and other businesses were forced to shut down last spring because of the pandemic, Heather was “shocked at what we were hearing on the news,” she said. “We knew that our local businesses were hurting.” She also worried about older people isolated from their loved ones, and about the risks to frontline work- ers. Heather and her brother decided to solicit donations on behalf of these and other groups struggling with the pandemic, through their own website, where they requested contributions of just $5.

After promoting their initiative through social media and local news outlets, the Paglia siblings got a huge boost with an interview on a national network. Donations began pouring in from all across the country. In addition to directing these contributions to frontline healthcare workers, small businesses and senior citizens, Heather and her brother have expanded their mission and have supported efforts to feed the hungry and rescue animals, and to assist young people with disabilities, veterans with PTSD, and families dealing with cancer. The pair also organized a holiday gift drive, and collected shoes for people in need overseas. To date, Heather and her over 100+ 5Help team teen/kid volunteers have worked to collect over 6,000 pounds of food and personal care items for people in need, over 4,500 toys/gifts for kids and seniors in need, 3,300 pairs of shoes, almost 10,000 pounds of clothes, over 1,500 snack and hygiene bags for the homeless, over 2,700 coats/winter accessories, and 5,000 books for children in low income areas. As a result of her Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Heather has received certificates and recognition from Senators Stephen Sweeney, Christopher Bateman, Samuel Thompson, and Assemblymen Ronald Dancer and Robert Clifton. She was given her own joint legislative resolution from the NJ Legis- lature signed by the Senate and General Assembly as well as received a personal phone call from Governor Murphy. She will also be receiving a President's Volunteer Service Award Certificate and a letter from the President of the United States! Anyone of any age is welcome to volunteer and join the 5Help Team by emailing as they continue to help areas of need and crisis $5 at a time. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service. “We created the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 26 years ago to highlight and support the work of young people taking on the challenges of a changing world – a mission that rings truer than ever given the events of last year,” said Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s chairman and CEO. “We are proud to celebrate the vision and determination of Spirit of Community’s Class of 2021, and all the ways they’re making their communities safer, healthier and more equitable places to live.” State Honorees in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Class of 2021 – the top middle level and high school volunteer from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – were selected for service initiatives completed, at least in part, between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Selection was based on criteria including impact, effort, initiative and the personal growth demonstrated over the course of the project. Several distinguished finalists and run- ners-up were also selected in each state, and all qualifying applicants received President’s Volunteer Service Awards. “It speaks volumes about the character of today’s secondary school students that the Spirit of Community program heard from more than 21,000 appli- cants this fall – most of them stories of young volunteers overcoming the hardships of a global pandemic to support those in need,” said Ronn Nozoe, Chief Executive Officer, NASSP. “While we’re especially proud to celebrate this year’s 102 State Honorees, NASSP applauds every student who’s found a way to volunteer this past year. You inspire your peers and adults alike to remember that, even in times of crisis, we all have something to give.”

34 The Millstone Times

June 2021

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