Identical twins Luke and Jake Salman from Plantation, Florida, are a striking duo in their remarkable commitment to community service. With an impressive tally of 2,300 combined community service hours earned in just three years of high school, these young men are redefining what it means to be community activists. Their dedication to various causes through four different nonprofit organizations has not only made a significant impact on their community but also inspired their peers to follow in their footsteps.
The Salman twins have immersed themselves in a range of activities, each contributing to the welfare of their community in unique ways. At Craig’s Pantry, they spend their weekends delivering food to homebound seniors, a task that combines compassion with action. Their involvement with Food Rescue U.S. South Florida sees them rescuing perishable food from grocery stores to deliver to food pantries, simultaneously addressing food waste and hunger.
In their work with Love Serving Autism, Luke and Jake coach autistic children in adaptive tennis and life skills, an endeavor that goes beyond physical activity to impart crucial life skills. Additionally, they have played a pivotal role in expanding the charity, from maintaining its digital presence to helping secure a substantial $18,000 grant for the organization.
Luke’s initiative in launching Love Serving Autism’s Student Leadership Ambassadors program as co-president showcases his leadership skills and his commitment to scaling the organization’s impact. Jake’s extensive work in environmental conservation includes leading the “Green Sharks” environmental club and conducting independent research on climate change. These endeavors, among others, earned the twins a nomination for the prestigious and competitive Silver Knight Award.
Beyond their local community, Luke and Jake have also made an international impact. In July 2023, they dedicated a week to building latrines in a mountain village in the Dominican Republic with Blue Missions. This effort not only provided essential sanitation and privacy to the villagers but also demonstrated the twins’ willingness to extend their service globally. The twins have also both been recently accepted, early decision, to Cornell.
Read on to hear more of Luke and Jake’s inspiring story as they share what it means to create sustainable and meaningful change.
Tell us about your volunteer roles.
We have a lot! We have some pretty big leadership roles: Love Serving Autism and Food Rescue U.S. South Florida. We were their first paid interns, and we were tasked with expanding the organization in Broward County, in South Florida. We really got to see the organizational side of things – manage their website, screen new volunteers, direct them to different rescues around South Florida. We also got more donors – Costco and Sprouts Market. It was a really amazing experience.
For Love Serving Autism, we teach kids with autism tennis at a local park. As the weeks went by, they really improved in their tennis skills and social skills, and we’ve built relationships with them.
Why are these issues so important to you?
Love Serving Autism really appealed to us because we love tennis and we love helping people, so it’s a blend of both. For Food Rescue U.S. South Florida, my brother are I are into sustainability and helping the environment. We want to try to limit greenhouse gas emissions, so one of the ways we do that is to “rescue food” local grocery stores, food that’s on the verge of expiring. We pick up food and take it to shelters and other organizations. It just makes sense, to feed people instead of landfills.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
In addition to coaching, we also helped establish the Student Leadership Ambassador program. We work with Legacy Leaders, which are young adults or kids on the spectrum. We organize through gala events and other events. Basically, we compete – there’s a bunch of legacy leaders and ambassadors, and it all culminates in this event called the Matchpoint Gala. We share our experiences and one of the kids gets nominated for Legacy Leader of the Year. It felt like it was all paying off.
Additionally, this past summer, we did a really unique experience with a missions group called Blue Missions, based out of Miami. This trip was to a remote village in the Dominican Republic, and we went with a bunch of kids from Miami Public Schools. We helped build 16 latrinesfor the people there so they could have a designated place to use the bathroom. Otherwise, they’ve been going in the woods or the river. We used wood and sheet metal for the roof so that the rain would stay out. The latrines give them privacy.
The most impactful part was being immersed into their culture and their way of life. We tried raw cacao straight from the tree. We tried Dominican pineapple. We played baseball with the kids and adult villagers too. They taught us how to use tools, and some of them helped us build the latrines. One of the most impactful moments on the trip was when we were playing outside and it started raining, then pouring. We all took cover for a little bit, but then we all ran out and started playing out there. Giving the kids piggyback rides. Dancing in the rain. Just being in the moment. Even though these people don’t have all the material things, but rather just the essentials – and sometimes not even that – they have love and family and faith.
Why is it important for people, especially youth, to get involved with the causes they care about?
Taking our example, we love tennis. We were initially trying to start our own charity. But along the way, we found Love Serving Autism. We started by donating racquets, and then we got more involved, then started coaching and the rest is history.
There’s a bit of a misconception that you need to start your own nonprofit. You can do that, but you don’t have to. Through our persistent service and commitment, we were noticed and offered more opportunities to lead and expand organizations, reaching more people. Volunteering puts your own situation in perspective. It helps you appreciate the little things but also the big things you may take for granted.
Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?
Think first, what are you passionate about? Then use that hobby or interest to branch out and find ways to help others. If an organization doesn’t exist, maybe you create your own. I would say just be open to anything – don’t be afraid to take on a community service opportunity or a chance to help people. Over the course of the missions trip, we had some really profound mindset shifts. Try new things, don’t be afraid to step up to help people.
There’s never really a limit to the impact you can make through service. Find a cause you care about and try to lead that cause or open new sub-divisions of it to help expand those operations. Once you start helping people, you can find more and more people to help and more and more reasons to stay motivated. We think about the villagers in the Dominican Republic. Those homebound seniors who can’t afford to put food on their tables. Those autistic children we help to develop their social skills. We want people to thrive and succeed in the world, and that is what motivates us to keep coming back and doing more.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Luke and Jake? Find local volunteer opportunities.