HUNTERSVILLE – Tasked with a service project to make a change they wish to see in the world, Lake Norman Charter (LNC) students Sean Parrish and Jacob Kwiatkowski teamed up to help out Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina (B&GH).
As sixth-graders last school year, the two held a collection drive and raised money in their neighborhood for the organization based in the community of Lake Waccamaw, situated halfway between Lumberton and Wilmington.
Parrish’s grandfather, Jerry, was once a resident at B&GH, which serves children and youth up to 21 years old who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or other family dysfunction.
Despite Sean’s family ties to B&GH – his grandfather also is on the board of trustees – he had not been there but still learned plenty about the nonprofit that has served more than 7,500 children since 1954.
“I learned how they operate and what their main objective is,” Sean said. “It’s to help kids who don’t have a safe home environment. And give it to them and give education and physical needs, mental needs, all that stuff.”
For their service, Parrish and Kwiatkowski, who play baseball together and are residents of the MacAulay neighborhood, distributed 200 flyers to alert their neighbors of their project, a requirement for sixth-graders at LNC.
“They have a rubric with the goals they need to hit,” Laurie Kwiatkowski, Jacob’s mother, said. “You can do it individually or form a team. They have to hand in the finished product with the details and write up the evidence by April.”
The fundraising aspect started off as a hot chocolate stand, but unseasonably warm weather in April forced the boys to adjust. Lemonade was added to the menu, which the boys handled completely alone, according to their project poster.
In addition to the $101 raised from the beverage sales, the collection drive yielded 13 trash bags of mostly clothes but also toiletries and a few toys, which the elder Parrish loaded in a truck and took the roughly 170-mile trip southeast to deliver them.
Sean’s father, Mark, said Jerry makes the trip often anyways.
“To say he’s overly proud of these two young men is an understatement,” Mark Parrish said.
B&GH has a country store, where the donated clothes and toys ended up.
“It’s like a Goodwill … where they bring it in and fix things and sell it back into the community, whether it be bikes, they do appliances,” Mark Parrish said. “All those proceeds go back and benefit the Boys and Girls Home, for their primary mission.”
Last month, Sean received a letter from Gary Faircloth, the president of B&GH, saying the money would go toward building a new alumni center.
“It was so nice of you to do something to help children who have had unfortunate and sad things happen to them in their lives,” Faircloth wrote in the letter. “However, special friends like you let them know that someone cares about them, and that makes them happy.”
And Sean and Jacob feel good about the project as well.
“It made me feel better about myself after helping other kids, and it made me want to do more,” Jacob said.
Other service projects this past year included volunteering at animal shelters and at soup kitchens like Angels & Sparrows. On their poster, Sean and Jacob, broke down how they utilized each pillar of LNC’s honor code: responsibility, honesty, integrity and respect.
“That’s the neat thing about Lake Norman Charter,” Mark Parrish said. “Their motto is ‘Together we learn, lead and serve.’ That’s evident in these types of projects. When there’s 200 kids in sixth grade that have these projects, they’re hoping to continue fostering that philosophy.”
And Sean hopes the project inspires other students coming up the ranks.
“We really put a lot of effort into this,” he said. “They can probably see that if you do the same, they can have a good outcome like we did.”