News and analysis
April 10, 2015
Updated April 13, 2015

Volunteer Week Includes Award for 14-Year-Old Vision-Impaired Nonprofit Founder

100 Men Reading

A nonprofit called 100 Men Reading brings positive role models into schools for story time and book giveaways.

As a young girl, Imani Henry struggled to read due to a birth defect that impaired her vision.

Her family was active in the Wilmington, Del., community where they lived, and while her mother was involved in local literacy efforts, it was her father and brothers who would read to her each night.

So at age 10, she developed the idea of 100 Men Reading, a nonprofit that promotes reading among young people through male mentor volunteers.

"I wanted to help others who didn’t have the support they needed," said Imani, now 14 years old and the chief executive of the organization.

Monday, on the second day of National Volunteer Week, she will be honored with the Daily Point of Light Award, which recognizes an outstanding volunteer every day of the year.

Points of Light, the nation’s largest volunteer and civic-engagement charity, leads the annual weeklong celebration of volunteers, which starts Sunday and continues through April 18.

Through this week’s theme, Celebrate Service, the organization’s goal is to create a culture of service and ultimately increase the number of volunteers. Volunteerism has decreased over the last decade. In 2014, 25.3 percent of Americans reported volunteering at least once, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey.

"Having a moment when the country turns its attention to service is an important national strategy for change making," said Tracy Hoover, Points of Light’s chief executive. "Having that preserved can create some momentum for getting some exciting and important things done."

Among this week’s events:

  • About 50,000 Presidential Volunteer Service Awards will also be distributed to local organizations, which will use them to honor volunteers who have worked at least 100 hours during the year. Cumulatively, the week’s award recipients have given 5-million hours of service.
  • On Thursday, AmeriCorps director Bill Basl will honor 66 wounded veterans with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for lifetime achievement at the White House.
  • The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will work with several hundred corporate volunteers on April 15 to make more than 7,000 emergency meal kits to distribute to local food pantries. Each kit is enough to feed a family of four for four days.
  • In North Carolina, April 18 is HandsOn Charlotte Day, when the Points of Light affiliate group estimates more than 1,000 volunteers will work on five sites.
  • The National Youth Leadership Council, a national nonprofit that promotes service-learning among young people, will sponsor a day of service at the end of its National Service Learning Conference in Washington, D.C. Around 400 volunteers are expected to contribute 1,800 total hours of service to seven sites in the Washington area.
  • Points of Light’s youth service program, GenerationOn, will host a block-party event in Los Angeles on Saturday, coinciding with Global Youth Service Day. The event will feature service stations to benefit veterans, homeless people, and projects supporting local schools.

"It’s a great opportunity for young people and young celebrities to be really vocal and enthusiastic about what they’re doing," Ms. Hoover said.

And in Wilmington, Del., Ms. Henry and her family will continue their work with the volunteers at 100 Men Reading, with big hopes for its future.

Over the past four years, with the help of her family and community leaders, her organization has placed more than 2,000 volunteers in more than 125 schools. Later this month she will launch a national expansion of the program in New York. "I love seeing it grow," she said. "It’s so amazing to see all these men here doing the right thing. And I get to help so many children."

Learn how to nominate a volunteer to be a Point of Light.

Is your organization doing anything to observe the week? Let us know in the comments section below.

Editor's note: This article was updated on April 13 to correct the trend of the volunteerism rate over the last decade.

Send an e-mail to Eden Stiffman.