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State Honoree

Sam Wagner


Sam Wagner, 18, of Davenport, Iowa, a senior at Assumption High School, organized a daylong car wash and then sought donation pledges for each washed car, bringing in more than $18,000 to help Habitat for Humanity build a house for a low-income family. Sam was moved to action when he witnessed a homeless man asking for money on a subway train in Atlanta. "It was quite disturbing to see him walk past row after row of people and receive nothing," said Sam, who had nothing but a quarter in his pocket to give. "After this experience, I wanted to make sure that this would never happen again - I wanted to fight poverty," he said.

One of the best ways to do that, Sam decided, would be to provide a home for a needy family. He rallied the support of his church's youth group, contacted Habitat for Humanity, publicized his "Car Wash for Humanity" project through the news media, and began visiting Catholic churches in the Davenport area every Sunday morning to ask parishioners to pledge 5 cents for each car washed. On June 9 last year, nearly 50 volunteers washed 506 cars free of charge at two locations, and after all the donation pledges were collected, Sam presented a check for $18,000 to Habitat for Humanity at the groundbreaking of a home for a single mother and her daughter. "I will always remember the smiles on their faces and the true happiness they exhibited," said Sam.