Milberg is three. She’s wearing a pink hooded sweatshirt and a pink bike helmet. She’s also wearing a big fuzzy beige mitt on one hand. And the mitt is oozing with black paint.
Anya’s whole family—brother Devin and parents Vanitha and Justin— is part of a team of other kids and adults spending their Saturday morning touching up the fence around St. Nicholas Park, in Manhattan. The mitts, it seems, are more effective (and more fun) than brushes. Organized by Children for Children, a New York City nonprofit, this project is just one of a surprising number of service opportunities the organization offers teens and toddlers alike.
Silda Wall, founding chair of Children for Children (also known as Silda Wall Spitzer, First Lady of New York State), started the group in 1996 as a way to integrate service and philanthropy into kids’ lives from an early age.
CFC’s efforts extend across the city, to senior centers, hospitals and shelters—and beyond, into the larger global community. But the organization’s main focus is supporting city schools lacking in resources. Through book drives, fundraisers and on-site projects, CFC furnishes schools with library books, grants for supplies and equipment, and a steady stream of recruits for tasks like mural painting and gardening.
An array of programs mobilizes kids in creative ways. With the Celebrations Program, young hosts can turn their birthday parties and other fêtes into mini benefits by including service-themed activities or having guests bring gifts for the needy. Batters, kickers and dribblers can collect sponsor pledges for their athletic events to raise money for Sweat for Nets, an initiative that provides insecticide-treated mosquito nets to children in danger of malaria infection. Compulsive readers can share their passion by donating books or rounding them up for the annual Project Cicero book drive. And the civic-minded can find hundreds of additional volunteer opportunities by browsing requests from other agencies on CFC’s Kids for Community online database.
Children for Children estimates that as of 2006, the organization had raised more than $1.5 million for resource grants and helped to distribute about a half million books.
And for many CFC participants, helping others can form not only a habit but also a legacy. “I pretty much became addicted to doing this sort of stuff,” says Ian Bratcher, a seventeen-year-old who joined CFC last year. “It’s definitely something I’m going to get my kids into when I’m older.”
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