Archive for Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Care package drive leads to award

February 21, 2007

A Tonganoxie High School student's project to support troops overseas has landed him a 2007 Prudential Spirit of Community Award for outstanding volunteer service.

James Patrick Bailey, 17, was one of two Kansas students and one of just 102 students nationwide to receive the award. He modestly talks about his honor and is more excited about the project and the help he received.

"It is more of a community award. It wouldn't be possible without them."

James, inspired by the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, decided he'd pay respects to U.S. troops by reciting the poem "Mother Liberty," by Steven Manchester, during a countywide 4-H competition. James did this same poem recital at different events throughout the year. By the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, he began the communitywide service project in conjunction with his poem recital.

With the help of Happy Helpers 4-H Club and the communities of Leavenworth, Lansing, Tonganoxie, and Lawrence, he began collecting items for care packages. James solicited large organizations for donations. Donations varied from fabric to 700 packs of icebreaker gum from Hershey's Chocolate. He also placed drop boxes at businesses throughout these communities.

The results were amazing. James recalled one day when a box measuring 4 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet had to be emptied three times.

All of the donations were stored in the Bailey family home.

"My living room got really full," James said. "We had to walk around and go out the back door."

On May 4, 2003, volunteers gathered in the administration building of the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds, Tonganoxie, to assemble care packages. At the time, they also made pillowcases to replace the old ones the troops were using. That night, 425 pillowcases were made and 754 care packages were assembled. The packages were delivered the following day to the Leavenworth National Guard.

The project didn't stop there. The community didn't stop with the donations and the care packages continued. James said he and his volunteers were still making pillowcases from the original donated fabric in November 2005.

"Community was the most important part of this thing. It was amazing to see how much they helped out," he said.

Last year, Tonganoxie High School announced to students that applications were available for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. James was the only THS student who completed an application, which the school sent in for consideration.

Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals conduct Spirit of Community awards program. It is the largest youth volunteer service recognition program in the United States.

"People as caring and committed as these young students are critical to the future of our neighborhoods, our cities, and our nation," said Arthur Ryan, chairman and CEO of Prudential. Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals said, "This year's honorees are proof that the youth of today are conscientious and capable of performing selfless acts of kindness in their local communities, on a national scale and at the global level."

Along with the award, James will receive an engraved silver medallion, a $1,000 scholarship, and an all-expense paid trip in May to Washington, D.C., for him and one parent.

Asked what inspired him to do something like this as such a young age, James said, "My parents always taught me to give back to the community." He also followed the example of his sister who did volunteer and service activities at a young age.

What is James looking forward to the most about this trip? "I've never been on a plane before. Mom is going with me and she never been on a plane either," he said.

James also has participated in community service projects through the Kansas River Youth Leadership Program. He is the son of Patrick and Carol Bailey of Leavenworth. He will be attending the engineering program at Kansas State University in the fall.

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