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National Honoree

Kristin Brandt

Pennsylvania

Kristin Brandt, 17, of Lock Haven, Pa., a senior at Central Mountain High School in Mill Hall, initiated a 16-month project to build a modular home and haul it 1,200 miles to Mississippi, where it was presented to an 80-year-old woman who had lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. After the storm receded, Kristin was impressed by all of the food, water, clothing and medical supplies that were being donated for the victims, but began to wonder about their long-term needs. "Where would all these people live after the television cameras and media saturation disappeared?" she asked. "It was then that I began to think how I could help make a difference."

After obtaining approval from her school district, Kristin recruited a faculty advisor and formed a school club called "Homes of Hope." She sent out nearly 1,000 letters soliciting help from every business, civic organization and religious group in her county, delivered speeches at community meetings, and caught the attention of local news media. As contributions began to trickle in, she organized a holiday concert, football ticket raffles, "Teacher Dress-Down Days," and other fund-raising events. With more than $20,000 in hand, as well as donated materials and services from many businesses, Kristin and her club's vice president recruited 20 students from her school's vocational program to help them construct a two-bedroom house on the high school grounds. When it was finished, a local company offered to transport the new home to Pass Christian, Miss. "We watched as this home was set on its new foundation," said Kristin. "It was overwhelming to see the gratitude as I handed Mrs. Ashley the keys to her new home."