Miami Teen Raises Funds to Fight Hunger and Poverty in South Florida

Daily Point of Light # 7510 Mar 16, 2023
After raising over $20,000 for its purchase, Julia stands in front of Joshua’s Heart’s refrigerated food truck that will take perishable goods further from their base./Courtesy Julia Krass

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Julia Krass. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Julia Krass started volunteering with Joshua’s Heart Foundation when she was just six years old with her twin sister, Charlotte. The youth-run organization, focuses on “stomping out hunger and poverty,” and the girls jumped in to help gather grocery bags and sort bags of rice and beans at different food drives. Almost 11 years later, nearing her 17th birthday, Julia sits on the Junior Advisory Board and is the head of fundraising.

Outside of Joshua’s Heart, Julia is on the NSU Teen Council Board, an event-planning body for a local museum, and enjoys spending time with her dog, going to the beach, and participating in tennis and track. As she prepares to apply to college, it’s the first of these, her love of art and art history, that has captured her interest as a possible field of study. Regardless of where her future takes her, she carries a love for volunteering, an activity she plans to continue far beyond her high school days.

What inspires you to volunteer? 

My sister and I have been doing it since we were young. The first time we heard about Joshua’s Heart Foundation, Joshua was giving a presentation at an event. He started Joshua’s Heart when he was about four or five years old. His grandmother gave him money for his birthday, and instead of spending it on a gift, he gave it to a homeless man. Hearing what another young person could do to make a big impact really inspired my sister and I to volunteer.  

Describe your volunteer role with Joshua’s Heart Foundation. 

We mostly do food drives throughout South Florida. We help set up all the food and help pass it out when people come through. And we’re part of the job board, which is a group of behind-the-scenes teens who meet and plan drives, spread the word and get as many people involved as possible. Food drives don’t come out of nowhere. There’s so much planning that goes into them, and there’s so much heart from the people behind them. 

We also do different events like having speakers from other foundations talk about what they do. We learn about food insecurity at a higher level, and in the past, we’ve written letters to senators about bills that we’d like to pass that would reduce food insecurity in South Florida.

Julia, 6, shares a sign on social media to solicit donations to Joshua’s Heart during her first year as a volunteer over 10 years ago./Courtesy Julia Krass

What is the story of the refrigerated truck? 

Joshua’s mom, Claudia Williams, was telling some of us that they needed the down-payment for a refrigerated food truck in order to send more perishable food to people in further locations. My sister, our friend and I decided to make it our mission, so over the past two years, we raised over $20,000 by making our own bracelets and selling them and selling lightly used clothing on Instagram.  

We also got donations from family members and family friends. We solicited bigger donations from corporations near us. One of the larger ones we got from Milam’s Market, a South Florida grocery store. They allowed customers to round up the money they spent on groceries and civically engage by donating that to Joshua’s Heart, 

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?  

It’s seeing people face-to-face when you’re handing out groceries, whether it’s a family or an adult or someone that is your age. When you know that you’re helping them, that’s the best part of all of it. I’ve also made so many friends through Joshua’s Heart. I bring my friends to meetings and things, and when we’re all working together, it feels good. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?  

It’s helped me realize that I’m very privileged in where I live and where I go to school. I think it’s a bubble. And when you’re working with Joshua’s Heart, you’re going to different locations and you’re meeting people in locations that might not look like where you grew up.  

The areas where Joshua’s Heart Foundation works are underserved, but that’s the reality, and I think from such a young age being exposed to challenges faced in these areas, it’s given me a better view of the world around me. It’s made me more cultured, and it’s made me appreciate what I have. It’s also helped me look at the opportunities I’ve been given and to use those to my benefit and to help others.  

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about? 

An amazing speaker has come to many Junior Advisory Board (JAB) board meetings recently. She’s been telling us what she’s been doing and has run different activities for the JAB board members. We’ve talked about what food insecurity means at a bigger level across America and how it’s affecting different groups, specifically different races. 

Another is our partnership with Plum Market. They’ve been very generous. It’s amazing to partner with these local businesses. Partnerships are a huge part of Joshua’s Heart.  It’s always about supporting other people, lifting others up.  

Why is it important for others to get involved in causes they care about?  

I think many young people might not think they can much of a difference. Being a part of Joshua’s Heart has proved that wrong. No matter what age you are, you can always make a difference, big or small, one family or a million families. You’ll feel good doing it, and it helps you become a better person. 

What do you want people to learn from your story? 

Engaging in your community is so important. People don’t always realize that real people are behind these organizations, and you’re helping real people. It’s not about getting service hours or the feeling of, “Oh, I did something today.” It’s about helping real people. 

When you help someone your own age, it’s so personal. It really makes you go into their shoes and look at their situation and what they’ve been through. It’s shaped me as a person. It’s made me realize what’s outside of my bubble and how lucky I am to be in a position to help other people. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Julia? Find local volunteer opportunities.