Lillian Murray, 17, of Rye, New Hampshire, a senior at Portsmouth High School, founded “Portsmouth Community Closet,” a nonprofit through which she has collected new and gently used clothing for families in need, provided eight of the families with washers and dryers, and enhanced the services available to kids at a local recreation center. It all began when Lillian’s ecology class talked about conducting a clothing drive but didn’t move forward with the project. “I knew it was a good cause and I wanted to finish what we started,” she said. So she personally solicited clothing donations from local shops and community members, recruited volunteers to help wash and sort the collected clothes, and then handed them out to residents of a low-income housing development.
While at the development, Lillian learned that the local laundromat had closed and public buses did not allow bags of laundry to be brought on board. A few weeks later, she started raising money to buy washers and dryers. Then, after collecting more than $4,500 and several donated machines, Lillian presented eight energy- and water-efficient washers and dryers to families that needed them. Still eager to help those facing social and economic challenges, Lillian began working with a recreation center serving kids from low-income families. She created new activities for the center’s after-school program, helped kids with their homework and brought in other student volunteers to assist. She also organized summer field trips for the kids there, and collected money and books to create a “book nook” at the center. “Giving back to a community which has given you so much, is so rewarding,” said Lillian. “And volunteering has become a key component in the way I carry myself as I go through life.”