A year ago, one Meade High School student received White House recognition for her volunteer work with the homeless.
Now, that top-level recognition has blossomed sevenfold. Seven other Meade High students recently were honored for their work with Happy Helpers for the Homeless by receiving the President's Volunteer Service Award.
The award is considered the nation's highest for volunteerism. The students received a certificate and a letter signed by President George W. Bush, plus a pin.
Honored this year were four Meade High School 12th-grade students -- Susan Kim, Tiffany Marshall, Candice Thornton and Malik Zafar -- and three juniors: Lydia Merrills and twins Margaret and Virginia Williamson. Last year, Meade senior Christina Mason received the President's Volunteer Service Award.
"I just like to help people," Zafar said of his motivation to work with the homeless. "Everyone should volunteer," Marshall agreed.
Happy Helpers for the Homeless was founded by Amber Coffman, daughter of Bobbi Coffman, a special education teaching assistant at Meade who recently began heading the volunteer organization. Amber began working as a volunteer at a homeless shelter when she was 8 years old. Then she went on to establish Happy Helpers for the Homeless in 1993 and headed it until moving to California last year.
Bobbi Coffman is proud of the Meade students and others who volunteer each weekend.
On a recent weekend, she said, some 70 volunteers pitched in on Saturday and another 50 or so volunteered on Sunday.
A typical weekend's effort sees volunteers assembling meals on Saturday and then distributing them on Sunday. They also hold birthday parties for the homeless at different locations.
The most recent party was held several weeks ago at Bay Area Community Church in Annapolis. It was a "huge birthday party" for people who had nothing, Bobbi Coffman said. Later in the day came the special recognition ceremony at the church for the seven Meade students who had done so much to help so many.
"It was exciting," Marshall said. "Definitely we're appreciative," Merrills added.
The seven awardees are no strangers to high achievement. Most are members of the National Honor Society, Coffman said, and several are star athletes in sports ranging from track and lacrosse to softball.
While excelling on the athletic field and in the classroom is what these students do -- and do well -- they also are making their mark on the world around them. Kim, who hopes to attend the University of Maryland in College Park, said there is a Happy Helpers branch there and she plans to volunteer.
"Hopefully, they'll do it all their lives, wherever they go," Coffman said.
Editor's note: If you are interested in working with Happy Helpers for the Homeless, please call 410-766-4973. The organization also is looking for gently used, in-season clothing, blankets, snack foods and juices.