Our May Volunteer Spotlight belongs to long-time HandsOn Broward volunteer and project leader, Sydney Howard. Sydney began volunteering with HandsOn Broward in 2011 when she was only 10 years old. Her family originally got started with us when Disney was doing their ‘Give a Day, Get a Day’ challenge, where if you participated in a volunteer service project, you received a free ticket to Disney World. Her older brother, Jonathan, started participating in more HandsOn Broward projects which helped Sydney decide to get more involved too. “I originally began volunteering with HandsOn Broward because I saw my brother having so much fun at the projects and I wanted to join,” she said.
Sydney, now 14, has acquired 811 service hours (and counting!), and she isn’t even a high school student yet. She has volunteered with a variety of organizations through HandsOn Broward, such as the Ronald McDonald House, the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, Kids In Distress, Kids Ecology Corps, Tomorrow’s Rainbow, HAPPI Farm, and more. From 2012-2014, Sydney assisted her brother Jonathan in leading the monthly Movies, Muffins & Beyond project at the Ronald McDonald House.
Sydney helps lead HandsOn Broward’s monthly Kids Care Club projects as well. Kids Care Clubs are groups of young people, ages 5-12, who work together to help others in their communities and around the world. Sydney originally participated in Kids Care Club as a volunteer, but has since advanced to a project leader role. She now leads project components with the 5-12 year olds who participate in Kids Care Club. “My favorite project is constantly changing, but at the moment it is Kids Care Club because I love helping all the little kids,” she said.
Volunteering is something Sydney saw her family participating in, which helped show her at a young age why it is so vital. She also attends a middle school that encourages students to make a difference in the community. She credits her family and her school for getting her involved initially. “I was motivated to get involved in the community because my school encouraged it, I grew up around my mom who was constantly volunteering, and because I saw my brother having fun and meeting new people through it,” she said.
In 2013, Sydney and her family were honored by the Points of Light Institute with the Daily Point of Light Award. This award is granted to individuals and families who spark change and improve the world through service. “I think it is important for families to volunteer together because it’s important to give back to the community and to help others,” Sydney said. “It makes you realize how grateful and fortunate you are for the things in your life. Volunteering as a family puts the idea of volunteering into a child’s mind at a young age so they will continue to volunteer throughout their life.”
Sydney enjoys volunteering and believes others should get involved with HandsOn Broward so they can participate in a variety of volunteer projects too. “Other volunteers should get involved with HandsOn Broward because there are so many different projects that they are bound to find something they like,” she said. “I enjoy volunteering because I always have fun at the projects, I have met so many new people through it, and because it feels good to give back.”
When asked what advice she has for new volunteers, Sydney said, “My advice for new volunteers is to take a chance and try out all different kinds of projects because you never know what you might like.”
Sydney exemplifies the idea that anyone can make a mark on the world, no matter their age. Thank you, Sydney, for all that you do to make a difference in our community!