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State Honoree

Charlize Lopez

Sugar Land, Texas

Charlize Lopez, 14, of Sugar Land, Texas, an eighth-grader at Quail Valley Middle School, has collected nearly 1,000 coats and other cold weather items over the past four years to donate to people in need in her community. “My project began as a wish,” Charlize said, explaining that every year her church invites congregants to fulfill the wishes of children in need in its area. Charlize chose to grant the wish of an 11-year-old girl, but her requested gift really got Charlize thinking. “All she wanted was a fleece jacket for Christmas,” she said. “I was touched because her choice of a gift was an everyday need and not a toy. It made me think of all the children struggling through each day, battling it out in the cold.”

That was when she decided to launch her annual “Warm Coats Warm Hearts” drive. To begin, she wrote letters to her school principal, her mother’s workplace and her karate center, asking for permission to set up collection boxes at their locations. She made fliers and explained her project to her classmates. To spread the word further, she persuaded members of a broadcast club at a local middle school to film her talking about her mission. Every week during her drive, she emptied the donation boxes, and at the end of the project she handed out coats, blankets, scarves and food at a homeless shelter, with the help of her father and 16 other families. Charlize donated the remaining items to a shelter for domestic violence victims and to a youth immigration detention center. “There are people out there who need help,” she said, “and it is the job of those who are more fortunate to help them.”