Buena Vista Life

Making a Difference

By Kirby Carespodi, Robinhood Road
Photo by Oh, Goodness Fine Portraits

Published in Buena Vista Life Magazine, April 2019

The college application process can be a daunting one – and one of the things most colleges look for from applicants is an interest in service – volunteering in one’s school or community. Most students find ways to volunteer through clubs or churches, but two young ladies have taken volunteerism a step further – by creating their own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Isabelle Ginn and Allie Valaoras are Buena Vista residents and students at Reynolds High School. They created Hearten, an organization that focuses on person-to-person volunteering. Instead of working behind-the-scenes, person-to-person volunteering focuses on bringing volunteers and recipients face-to-face. The girls believe that making the connections that build relationships is what makes Hearten different.

Hearten began with two projects and approximately fifteen volunteers. Their inaugural project was helping senior citizens use iPads to surf the web as well as link their library accounts and, most importantly, FaceTime their grandchildren! The one-on-one instruction allowed the volunteers to tailor their instruction to each resident. Isabelle and Allie also feel that the volunteers got as much out of the opportunity as the senior citizens did.

Another volunteer undertaking was working with a church after-school program. The volunteers helped younger students with homework and activities. Although the program working with underprivileged youth was completely different than working with seniors, it was just as rewarding and beneficial to both the young students and the volunteers.

Isabelle and Allie would love to see their organization grow, and plan to continue Hearten even after they graduate. Both girls plan to attend college and they will hand over the day-to-day operations to their younger siblings, Ava and Matt, who are currently in 9th grade. But both girls plan to continue their volunteerism in college and beyond, as they love making a positive impact on the community.

The Hearten website (www.HeartenNC.org) is a great place to learn more about this organization. You can use the website to find out about person-to-person volunteering or making a tax-deductible donation. You can also contact them to see if your volunteer needs might be a fit for Hearten. They would love to hear from the community regarding new projects in need of volunteers.

Making volunteerism personal is what Hearten is about, and Isabelle and Allie are truly the heart of the organization!

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