One local teenager is being celebrated for the time she gives to her community. Chloe Christensen, 14, of Lake Lotawana was named alongside Shae Smith, 15, of Bolivar as Missouri’s top two youth volunteers of 2019 on February 5th, by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
As State Honorees, Chloe and Shae each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2019.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 24th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Chloe, an eighth-grader at Bernard C. Campbell Middle School, has collected and donated more than 35,000 pairs of shoes to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit organization that sends shoes around the globe to children and adults who can’t afford footwear. In 2012, Chloe informed her family that she “already had enough toys and belongings,” so in lieu of birthday gifts, she wanted shoes that she could give to people in need.
“My main concern was always that without shoes, children cannot go to school; they may develop cuts on their feet that lead to infection, which may result in the spread of disease and even death,” Chloe said. That first year she collected 86 pairs. Later, she saw an online ad about a girl collecting shoes for Soles4Souls and knew right away that she wanted to do the same.
To motivate her friends to collect footwear, Chloe held a contest with her soccer team to see who could collect the most shoes, and hosted a skate night, a dinner at a restaurant and other events. She began talking to school groups and community organizations about the impact a single pair of shoes can have on a person, worked with a local television station to make a commercial for PBS Kids Network, and, with the help of her mother, created Facebook and Instagram accounts to publicize her cause. When people have shoe donations for Chloe, they drop them off either at her home or at a warehouse where she stores the shoes. When the warehouse is full, Chloe and her team of volunteers load the shoes into a large truck, which transports them to Soles4Souls.
In addition to all the shoes she has collected, Chloe said she is happy to have inspired many of her friends to get involved in community service. Like her, many of them now ask for donations to their favorite charities instead of gifts on their birthdays, she said.