Elana Young inspires judges with her gifts in Long Beach Giving Project

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Justin Rudd awards Elana Young's "Giving" spirit.

By David Stuursma
(David was also one of the Givers in this year’s Long Beach Giving Project)

With two weeks and $1000 in their pockets, eight Long Beach volunteers made an impact on the community, each in their own way. And on March 27, the Long Beach Giving Project concluded with tears of joy and warmed hearts as the volunteers stood before an audience of 150 and shared their stories of giving.

All eyes were especially trained on one unique giver. In a gathering of adults, how would a teenager use the money? Elana Young, a 16-year old Junior at Wilson High School, is a consistent, hard-working volunteer for Justin Rudd and the Community Action Team (CAT), the organizers of the Giving Project. On this night, Young faced the crowd with calm eyes and rosy cheeks and spoke of her experience with poise that few possess at that age. The audience marveled at how she stretched her money to unbelievable lengths knowing lives might depend on it.

Young said, “I have met some truly inspirational people who dedicate their lives to making things better. While the project was at times tiring and stressful, it was inspiring and I hope to get more chances to improve the community, one step at a time. By clipping coupons from newspapers and scouring the Internet for usable discounts, I was able to save over $400 and buy more items.”

Young purchased 750 diapers and 3,600 wipes for the homeless children who are cared for by the Children Today organization. She delivered 1,600 crayons, 25 coloring books, and 200 mini boxes of Play-doh to the Miller Children’s Hospital. And for the Long Beach C.A.R.E. clinic she took advantage of a store’s buy-one-get-one-free offer and bought 3,590 vitamins with the hope that those vitamins would help patients who have contracted the AIDS virus, and keep them healthy and strong.

As impressive as Young’s gifts were, and those listed here are but a portion, the real meaning went deeper. It was clear that Young became an advocate for each of the groups to which she gave. She knew their stories and their purpose, and she clearly understood the needs they served in the community.

Elana is the youngest person ever to take part in the Long Beach Giving Project. Due to her effort, heart and presentation abilities that reveal a remarkable maturity, a panel of judges awarded her an additional $1000 to freely give away. To hear her story is to know the money is in capable hands. Before the event began, Young submitted this written statement to organizer Justin Rudd:
”If I won, I would try to enrich the lives of women who have breast cancer and buy supplies for the animal shelter. I would also try to help the patients at the Veteran’s Hospital because they have given so much, and they should get something for their service.”

In total, more than $17,000 of goods and services were given throughout Long Beach through the Giving Project. In addition to the eight, $1000 givers, mini gifts of $250 were awarded to 21 individuals at the event who had written in with stories of people both deserving and in need of a hand up.

For more information about the Long Beach Giving Project winners, visit: justinrudd.com/giving.

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