When Emily Sanudo first discovered Joshua’s Heart Foundation, she knew she’d found her passion. The Florida non-profit, which was founded by Joshua Williams when he was just four years old, is dedicated to the fight against global hunger and poverty. While this mission is close to Emily’s heart, what really grabbed her attention is that Joshua’s Heart is a youth-led organization. Everything is run by kids of all ages, from the board activities to the event planning and fundraising. Emily is now the vice chair for the foundation’s Junior Advisory Board (JAB), leading by example in countless ways that make a huge impact on her community in Greater Miami. Last year she organized her first Thanksgiving food drive, raising funds and donations to give 600 people what they needed to make a holiday meal. She plans to exceed those numbers this year. Because Joshua’s Heart Foundation is close to her heart, she worked with Taudrey, a local jewelry designer, to create Pieces of Heart, a handmade 18 karat gold filled necklace to represent the foundation, with all sales proceeds going to the charity – to date $850 from sales in shops and online. Emily’s commitment inspires countless other youth volunteers, because as she is always ready to point out, a person is never too young to make a difference.
Emily is committed to making a difference in her community and she is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree. Points of Light spoke with her about her commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
My mom, for sure. When I was younger she took me to His House Children’s Home to spend time with the kids there who didn’t have homes of their own. As I got older, I started seeing Miami in a different light – it’s a party town, but when you dig below the surface, you see men and women sleeping the street. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Joshua Williams, and he inspires me also. I never would have thought of starting a charity to help others at the age of four. That’s amazing. Too often we take for granted what we have.
Describe your volunteer role.
I try to do anything that is needed when I can. As vice chair of our board, I work with the board to plan meetings, events, fundraisers – anything that can help accomplish our mission of fighting hunger and poverty. We go to shelters and distribute hygiene kits and food. I had the idea of designing the Joshua’s Heart necklace, so I work on selling that at different place and events. And we are gearing up for our second Thanksgiving grocery drive November 17, which is super exciting. I’m getting donations and coordinating a lot of details for that drive. Honestly, I just love volunteering.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
It’s getting to know the people we are helping, interacting with them and hearing their stories. I’ve learned about their lives. These are normal like you and me, they just happen to be homeless because of all kinds of circumstances. So many times, they lift me up with their positive and happy attitude. It’s wonderful.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer
For sure I’ve learned how not to be shy. I used to be very shy and quiet – in fact the first event I went to for Joshua’s Heart, I didn’t talk to anyone! Now I talk to all kinds of people, and ask for things, money and donations. I’ve learned how to be a leader, and plan things and get other kids excited about volunteering too.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I’m going to start college next year, and I hope to start a Joshua’s Heart initiative wherever I go.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Giving back helps you appreciate the blessings you have in your life. Even though volunteering is required at my school, it isn’t about hitting a certain number of hours and stopping. It’s making volunteering a party of your life always, moving forward.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Of course, that you can make a difference at every age. Also, I hope people think about volunteering as a lifelong hobby, to really enjoy it and realize the impact you are have on so many people around you. Sometimes we get stuck in a bubble and we don’t even realize it.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Emily? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.