Volume XIV | Issue 2 | Fall 2014
Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker congratulates Christopher Younkins, 18, of Portland (center) and Kaylee Graham, 14, of Florence on being named Oregon’s top two youth volunteers for 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Photo: Business Wire

A 14-year-old leads the way

Kaylee Graham steps up to coordinate garage sales, volunteers and more

Kaylee Graham, a student from Florence, recently received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her work in creating a volunteer day to benefit the Florence area. The award proclamation summed up her efforts:

Ten young Americans were selected in the 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program for national recognition based on their outstanding achievements in community service. 

Kaylee Graham, 14, of Florence, an eighth-grader at Siuslaw Middle School, initiated an annual citywide day of service in her town that has motivated more than 3,000 residents to work on community improvement projects, raise money for charity, donate food and take part in other volunteer activities over the past three years. 

grew up volunteering

Kaylee grew up volunteering with her family, but when she was 10, she wanted to do something on her own. So she held a garage sale and raised almost $2,000 to stuff 150 backpacks with blankets, toys and other items for children in foster care. “The feeling I had after completing my own successful project was like nothing I have experienced before,” said Kaylee. “I wanted to share that feeling with others.”

She told her mother she wanted to host a weeklong volunteer camp at her house. Her mother said that was too much, but if it was just one day, Kaylee could invite as many people as she wanted. So Kaylee decided to invite her entire community. She presented her idea to the city council, which eventually proclaimed the third Saturday in July as the “Power of Florence Day.” 

To prepare for the event each year, Kaylee issues press releases, publishes information on her website and Facebook pages, makes videos, shows up at community events, and gives speeches to encourage churches, civic groups and nonprofit organizations to participate. ....  To date, Power of Florence Day has sparked nearly 40 service projects, raised more than $25,000 for community causes, and collected over 7,500 pounds of food for a food bank and the Humane Society. “I learned the size of a person doesn’t truly matter,” said Kaylee. “It’s the size of their heart that does.” 

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