Samantha Schuetze, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., a member of Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada and a junior at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, formed a nonprofit organization that has provided more than 600 “hand off kits” containing food and personal hygiene items for homeless youth and women in southern Nevada. When Samantha served a Thanksgiving meal with her mother at a local homeless shelter in sixth grade, “I became aware, probably for the first time, that other kids were not as lucky as I was,” she said. Subsequent visits to the shelter prompted Samantha to do some research on homelessness, which indicated that “Las Vegas has the fifth highest adult and the highest teen homeless population in the United States,” according to Samantha.
She enlisted the help of her church youth group, a local foundation and her neighbors to assemble 300 “kits” containing things like water, protein bars, cookies, candy, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hats, socks, lip balm and hand sanitizer, and delivered them to a local shelter for women and children. After discovering that “seeing people smile because of your actions is one of the best feelings in the world,” Samantha was eager to do more. So she established a nonprofit organization called “Helpful Hand Off Kits” and began reaching out to business, church and school leaders for help in collecting donations for the homeless. Those efforts, plus a GoFundMe account, have enabled Samantha to raise $3,000 and provide hundreds of additional kits to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.