Anastasia Hartman, 14, is proud to call herself an Army brat. As the daughter and granddaughter of military veterans, she has seen loved ones struggle with the aftereffects of PTSD, a struggle that affects the entire family. She knows what it’s like to see a parent go off to serve, missing their kids’ birthdays and holidays. Since she was eight, Anastasia dreamed up creative ways to make things easier for military families, raising funds to deliver more than 3500 pounds of food and 2500 new blankets, toys and pajamas to military kids. When disasters have struck, like the 2017 shooting at Rancho Tehama Elementary School and the 2018 Paradise fire, she’s raised money to provide those affected families and kids with bikes, toys and foods. Her next step is to raise the money needed to turn Project Heroes into an official 501c, setting up the non-profit to help veterans and their families for years to come.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I’m inspired to help because I’ve grown up in a military family and I know the challenges firsthand. My dad and my grandpa both have PTSD, different wars but the same issues. My dad often says if he didn’t have our family and the support of my mom that he would be one of those homeless veterans on the street – something that’s impossible to imagine. But if my dad could be one of those veterans, how many amazing people are out there that need help like my dad? I wanted to serve those who served us.
Describe your volunteer role with Project Heroes?
I founded Project Heroes when I was eight, almost six years ago. It’s grown, with the help of my parents and the law firm McCammon and Murray and is now a corporation – so I guess I’m CEO. I try and get other kids involved and help to fundraise and serve. I collect donations and talk to businesses about my project. I organize and deliver.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Knowing that I am making a difference in the life of a veteran. At one of my dad’s therapy sessions I learned that 22 veterans die every day from suicide. I started this project as a way to help – even if it just brings a smile and gives that person hope for another day. It makes me so happy to know that I can do that for someone else.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I have learned that I cannot do everything by myself! I need to get friends and people in the community involved. I have an amazing community that supports my project and I know it wouldn’t be possible without them. I’ve also learned that my project helps me as much as I try to help others. It’s taught me that I want to have a heart for service. In the beginning I wanted to help the 649th which had more than 100 kids with parents deploying for Christmas. I wanted to make their Christmas better. The need just continues. I’ve learned that service to others isn’t about just doing one good deed, it’s about making service a part of your daily life and always making other a priority.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce this July I’m excited about the first Ag America/Project Heroes Miss 4th of July benefit pageant. The pageant will get girls involved in the community to help and volunteer with Project heroes. The proceeds will go to help Project Heroes at Christmas and fund the Los Molinos High School Project Heroes Scholarship to benefit a veteran’s child or grandchild or someone who has completed 250 hours of veteran related community service.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Change doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. If you don’t get out there and try to give back to your community or to those who spent their lives giving to you, then nothing ever gets better. You have to be a leader and go out and inspire others to do good deeds to make a difference in this world — even if it’s only one person at a time. It’s important to give back because it creates a chain effect of kindness and LOVE.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I want people to know that no matter how old they are, you can make a difference. I am only 14 and I know I am making a difference. You can too!
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Anastasia? Find local volunteer opportunities.