The Interview: Emily Whittington

Every community needs volunteers willing to give of themselves to help others. For nearly 20-years Prudential’s Spirit of Community Awards has recognized young volunteers who are making a difference while still in middle or high school. Alabama’s 2013 honoree, Emily Whittington, was inspired to help children in need locally. She even got her classmates involved. Emily recently shared her motivation and why you’re never too young to help others.

“It made me happy. It made me feel like I was actually, you know, making a difference, that like, my life meant something to them. I wanted to show them that I loved them, and that I care for them, and that I would come back over and over again,” shared Emily.

Emily Whittington was recognized as an Prudential Spirit of Community Award inner of Alabama for 2013.   Emily credits her parents as being good role models who have influenced her to want to help others.

“My mom especially and my dad, they’ve given me the right direction to go, and they’ve given me the proper morals and the proper support for me to be able to do this. The way my mom and my dad act around children. The morals and the principles that they taught me it makes me realize how I want to be. And, just a good role model for my life,” said Emily.

Emily was with her mother on an outreach opportunity when she was impacted.

“I went with my mom and her Sunday school class, and they went to an apartment complex. They had free yard sales where basically the residents could just go and pick up anything they wanted to. I was in charge of the kids section. I saw that a lot of the kids, they just did not have a lot of toys or really any like jackets or anything like that. So, I went to my school and asked a lot of the kids if they would just come in and bring different things and put them in the box. Instead of giving each other gifts like we normally would, we could give each other like give the place $5. We had games and toys for the kids and it was just a lot of fun. My classmates at Knollwood did help me out a lot; they supported me. I actually invited some people from my school, a few of my friends to go with me one day. They thought it was great. They loved it. We actually got to be waiters, and we actually served them. We served the drinks, and we handed out the toys to the kids. I was just thinking, I have so much already and what can I do to help them. The mission statement at our church is we want every man, woman, child to have repeat opportunities to hear and see the gospel. So what a better way for me to show them that, than to show them love,” stated Emily.

Emily saw the results of showing love.

“They were really excited. I had a lot of them come up and thank me. It was amazing though just to see how grateful they were. It actually helped me build my character and just kind of helped me just to be a better person. I know I’ve formed a lot of great relationships with a lot of different people. I’m a much happier person and at these places I have a lot of friends, i’m involved more at my church,” shared Emily.

Her principal last year at Knollwood Christian School felt Emily’s outreach activities qualified for the Prudential Award.

“My principal told me about this Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. He says, ‘You have to write an essay about the volunteer work that you’re doing.’ I was trying to think about what to say. I sent in the essay, and I actually really didn’t think about it. I was like, ‘Oh well, I’m not going to get this.’ But, I come back a month later, and I was so excited. You win an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. and you win a $1,000. Yeah, it was amazing. I guess it didn’t kind of settle at first. I didn’t really think about it fully until probably the day after and I was like oh wow,” said Emily.

In Washington to receive her award, Emily saw an even bigger picture.

“There were two people from every state and then two from different countries.   When I got there it just kind of, I was like wow this is really it.   And, when they said 20,000 applicants, I thought it was only a few.   It just blew my mind and that really made an impression on me.   Almost every single person there had just an amazing story. It also made me see the different ways I could help and it gave me ideas for my ministry. It made me think like, oh I can do this,” stated Emily.

Now in high school at Mobile Christian, Emily stays busy. She’s a student-athlete and cheerleader. But, she finds time to help others.

“I think about it a lot more. I was thinking, ‘Oh, well I’m too young to do this. I can’t make a difference.’ I didn’t start a foundation. I didn’t start an organization. Now I know even if I just help out, it can make a difference. You’re never too young to volunteer. Sometimes we have this like preconceived notion that, ‘Oh well I’m too young,’ or, you know, I don’t have enough time. You don’t. It doesn’t even have to be a lot of time. You can just go help a neighbor or even just tutor someone in a class. It doesn’t have to be something huge, just as long as you’re helping your community that’s what important. I just love it so much because it just gives me the opportunity to help other people. Wherever we see a need we’re going to go,” shared Emily.

Emily has also volunteered at her grandmother’s senior center and, at an animal shelter. As an adult, she wants to become a pediatrician and travel as a missionary to provide medical care to children in need in foreign countries. Emily’s Prudential Spirit of Community Award included a one-thousand dollar check to use in her volunteer efforts.

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