A Little Girl with a Very Big Heart
While the act of volunteerism can be encouraged in and performed by almost anyone, the spirit of volunteerism does not always alight in a person’s heart. When it does, the impact becomes fodder for amazing stories like that of Emilie Knudsen’s, whose heart first responded to the call of serving others before she had even reached her 3rd birthday!
It was December 1999 when Emilie, just two and a half, met a little boy called Jack who was temporarily living with his grandmother at Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Community Shelter. Familiar with the shelter building located in her neighborhood, Emilie was quite upset to learn that it wasn’t a real house and became even more upset when she considered the most frightful of all possibilities to her at that time: that Santa would not know where to find Jack on Christmas Eve! Armed with all the savings she had in her piggy bank, Emilie woke her parents the next day and asked them to help her buy some Christmas presents for Jack and his grandmother. That was the first act of Emilie’s compassionate story.
For the next three years, Emilie spent the weeks leading up to Christmas using her savings and soliciting funds from relatives to purchase, wrap, and deliver presents for children and adults at the shelter, bringing them as much seasonal joy as she could muster. Even still, Emilie felt she could do more.
The following summer, Emilie had a wonderful idea: she could raise more money if she had a sale! But what to sell? Her own original artwork, of course…and pink lemonade!
In 2003, at the grand age of six and a half, Emilie raised $350 with her “Christmas Presents for the Homeless” sale. The following year she raised a remarkable $1,495!
To honor the little girl, who for five years straight had brought so much holiday cheer to her homeless neighbors, Cornerstones, then Reston Interfaith, presented her with the “Embry Rucker Community Shelter’s 2004 Volunteer of the Year” award at the annual volunteer appreciation reception. A remarkable achievement for a remarkable girl!
And where is that little girl now? She is a senior at high school, still actively engaged in fundraising efforts and balancing that with her academic studies and dreams of college and beyond. Just recently, and inspired by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, Emilie helped organize a coat drive at her school for donation to the Hunter Mill District/Cornerstones’ Winter Coat Closet Drive for families in need, and she is now helping the middle-schoolers with their own drives to raise money for Cornerstones’ shelter this year.
What motivates Emilie Knudsen to continue reaching out to help and give hope to her neighbors in need?
“I like to stay involved not only because I can see my actions benefitting others, but I can see them benefitting me. You can grow more as a person when you help others and I like creating a network of connectedness and meeting the needs and dreams of other people”.
And such is the spirit of just one Cornerstones volunteer. May her story inspire us all!