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Dutch Fork Elementary student receives Disney Summer of Service grant

IRMO, SC – When Dutch Fork Elementary third grade student Savannah Steele wanted to do something to help others, she came up with the idea for Little Hands Big Hearts. This charity project helps the homeless in the community by donating and distributing care packages full of essential items. Savannah raised the initial funds to build care packages with a GoFundMe campaign that reached nearly $900. She also encouraged her fellow students in Ms. Abu Abdo’s third grade class to get involved. They made necklaces, bracelets, and bookmarks for a school fundraiser that raised $313.

To continue in her efforts, Savannah applied for the Disney Summer of Service grant. Out of thousands of applicants, she was one of three hundred and forty recipients to be awarded a $500 grant. The District 5 Foundation presented the $500 check to Savannah in front of her class on behalf of Disney. District 5 Foundation Treasurer Joy Rambo said, “It is just awesome what you have done. That you have taken the initiative to put this project together and that you are helping the homeless in your community.”

Savannah was excited to receive the grant and to be able to help even more people through Little Hands Big Hearts. She explained, “We take all kinds of stuff that people need to live and we put them in the bags and go down to downtown Columbia and we pass them out. Our goal this first time was to do fifty... We’re going to spend the $500 on more of our supplies to give to the homeless and put in the bags.”

After building the care packages for Little Hands Big Hearts, Savannah and her family visit parks and walk around Columbia to distribute the packages to needy individuals. The care packages include a reusable backpack, a blanket, gloves, water, food, and toiletry items such as shampoo, tissues, baby wipes, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. This grant will also go towards purchasing winter coats to include in the packages. In addition to the donations, Little Hands Big Hearts offers a helping hand and friendship to those in need.

“The reaction from people has been very thankful. And we’ve met a lot of great people along the way,” said Savannah’s stepfather Thomas. “We’re very proud of her and happy that she was able to receive this grant from Disney so that we can help her further her cause.”

Dutch Fork Elementary School Principal Julius Scott hopes Savannah’s actions and accomplishments inspire others. He added, “As a school, we have ten beliefs. One belief states that learning should lead to social action. Based on what students learn, they should seek to make our school community better, our local community better, or the world at large better. And that’s fully embraced by our students and our parents. Savannah’s actions absolutely encapsulate what we are seeking to do as a school. The exciting part for us is seeing the positive difference an eight year-old who has a desire to make the world a better place can make. What is that going to look like when she’s twenty-eight? When she’s thirty-eight? We absolutely believe our world will be a better place because of students like Savannah.”

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Call Paul Kirby

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