May 10, 2019

Manchin, Capito Congratulate West Virginia's Top Youth Volunteers Of 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) congratulated Quinn Raffo of Craigsville and Chloe Orecchio of Weirton for receiving the 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Award alongside 100 other extraordinary, service-minded young Americans.

“I want to personally congratulate Quinn and Chloe on their service and contributions to the state of West Virginia. One of the best qualities of West Virginians is that we are committed to helping our neighbors and bettering our communities. Quinn and Chloe are prime examples of this and they make every West Virginian proud. I commend them on their accomplishments and know that they will continue to make us proud,” said Senator Manchin.

“I’m so impressed with Quinn and Chloe’s passion for giving back. Improving your community is a priceless gift that reverberates to so many around you, whether it’s cleaning up litter or feeding hungry students. Congratulations to these bright, young students! They are making West Virginia very proud,” said Senator Capito.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, created in 1995 by Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), are designed to emphasize the importance our nation places on service to others and to encourage all young Americans to contribute to their communities. 

State Honorees in the 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program received a $1,000 prize at the formal awards ceremony yesterday at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and were congratulated personally by award-winning actress Viola Davis.

From the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards press release:

Quinn, a sophomore at Richwood High School, founded a summer backpack food program that has provided more than 30,000 meals over the past five years to students in her rural county who otherwise would not have enough to eat when school is not in session. When she was 10, Quinn had to fast for 24 hours before some medical testing. “I’ll admit, at first I thought it would be fun to only eat jello and popsicles for an entire day,” she said, “but I got hungry really quickly and realized it was terrible. I had never felt that type of hunger before.” That made her think about the kids at her school who would take “extras” home from lunch to keep from going hungry. She knew she had to do something to help them.  

Quinn began volunteering at a food pantry and then learned that her town did not have a program to feed hungry kids over the summer. She researched how to start a backpack program, arranged to use a church’s community room, sent application forms to local schools, and then set about raising money through grants and fundraisers such as a car wash and a softball tournament. With money in hand, Quinn sets a weekly budget, plans a menu, shops for groceries, recruits volunteers to help assemble bags and delivers a stuffed backpack to each student’s house. Every child receives five breakfasts and lunches and 10 snacks for 10 weeks during the summer. Last year, Quinn had to quickly ramp up her program when teachers in her district went out on strike. She pulled together dozens of volunteers to provide meals to more than 750 kids during the 10-day walkout. “It never gets old to be able to provide something that you know people truly need,” she said.

Chloe, a sixth-grader at St. Joseph The Worker School, organized a monthly cleanup program to keep her school campus free of litter. While riding to school every morning, Chloe began noticing litter along the sides of the road and in the school yard. “All of the trash on our campus made our community look very dismal,” she said. “I told my parents that someone should clean it up.” After a few days of complaining, Chloe’s father asked her to come up with a solution. She realized that “it is up to us kids to keep our schools clean,” and so she came up with a plan for “Chloe’s Campus Clean-Up.”  

She prepared a PowerPoint presentation to explain her plan to the St. Joseph School Board, which approved it immediately. Then she started recruiting fellow students to form a cleanup team and gave them instructions on how she wanted to run the operation. The first cleanup collected four garbage bags of trash from the grounds of Chloe’s elementary school and a high school and church across the street. Chloe now schedules a cleanup on the third Saturday of every month. “It has made a big difference on the campus,” she said proudly. “No litter to be found!”