L4S Winner: Kaitlyn Chen, HOBY California, Los Angeles – 2016

“Every moment I spent with the HOBY family helped me develop a sense of belonging in this world. I never knew how fun service projects were until I made blankets for Project Linus and crafted sandwiches for Operation Gratitude while at HOBY.”

Before HOBY, I was very shy and quiet, held back by my fears of judgment and criticism. However, with the organization’s help, I was able to overcome these fears. Every chant I performed made me feel more confident in myself. Every encouragement I received at HOBY motivated me to continue striving to do my best. Every moment I spent with the HOBY family helped me develop a sense of belonging in this world. I never knew how fun service projects were until I made blankets for Project Linus and crafted sandwiches for Operation Gratitude while at HOBY. This was only the beginning of the endless number of services I have done.

After HOBY, I stepped out of my comfort zone, actively volunteering for the American Red Cross as a First Aid Responder and Disaster Preparedness Officer. I also began networking with those involved in film, working as a video editor for two nonprofit organizations to help spread awareness about societal issues. The volunteer work I’ve done and the leadership positions I’ve earned couldn’t have been possible without HOBY. The tools they’ve given me have shaped me to be a committed leader of today and in the future.

An important service project I participate in every month is a regional event called the Home Fire Campaign. Launched in 2014, this event brings the youth and adults together to educate residents and install free smoke alarms in underprivileged communities. Before I started this service project, I was already volunteering in other areas of the American Red Cross, such as the Rose Parade. One day, an adult saw how dedicated I was to the organization and invited me to help her out at a Home Fire Campaign.  

 I attended a meeting with her that introduced me to the event and the various volunteer roles that were available. At the meeting, I also learned that approximately 7 people in the U.S. died in home fires every day. However, the American Red Cross hopes to reduce the number of fire-related deaths in the U.S. by 25% by 2020. 

 I was really inspired by the organization’s mission; so the following week, I attended my very first Home Fire Campaign in Rosemead. Serving as the educator, I not only had the chance to educate multiple families, but I also learned about the hardships they were going through. When I left their houses, I wanted to help other families who didn’t often get these opportunities freely provided by the American Red Cross. So, I made a commitment to volunteer each month to support the cause. On that day, 141 smoke alarms were installed, 41 homes were visited, and 150 people were educated. 

I have demonstrated leadership in multiple areas of the Home Fire Campaign. I serve as the communicator between the volunteers and the leadership unit, recruiting the youth and adults for the event before reporting back to my team. I am also responsible for creating the maps, where I highlight the routes, mark which houses need to be visited, and put the contact information of basecamp in case of an emergency. On the day of the event, I arrive with a team of adults early in the morning to help set up. When the volunteers arrive, I register them for the event, assign them a role (either documenter, educator, or installer), and place them into teams. Once the volunteers are released onto their routes, I stay at basecamp where I am in charge of answering phone calls, delivering supplies to the volunteers, and preparing the meals. When the volunteers return, I would take their supplies and documents before entering the number of alarms installed, homes visited, and people educated into the American Red Cross database system. At the end of the day, I help load the supplies onto the van before returning with the adults back to the chapter.  

The numbers climbed up with each Home Fire Campaign I went to. By the time I reached my last Home Fire Campaign, we had 461 smoke alarms installed, 116 homes visited, and 609 people educated, which were record-breaking numbers in the Pasadena region. 


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