SPRING BRANCH, Texas - A Smithson Valley High School senior has been recognized for her volunteer work by former President Barack Obama.
Kaitlyn Ecoff received the President's Volunteer Service Award for donating 100-plus volunteer hours to her nonprofit clothes closet, Isaiah 58. Ecoff's nonprofit was named in part after a Bible chapter that mentions clothing the naked.
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The 17-year-old collects clothes and distributes them to those in need in her community.
"When they need clothes, they contact us. We get their sizes, and if they need coats for the winter, clothes for the summer, we work with them and the community to get the what they need," she said.
The idea for the clothes closet was born out of a nonprofit that her mother was a part of that closed down.
"There was still a need. There was still a lot of families needing clothes," she said. "And so there was that point where I was, like, 'OK, I feel called to go ahead and start doing this.'"
Ecoff started the clothes closet in September 2015 in her home. But after word got out, the donations started piling up, and she had to rent a storage unit.
She takes the clothes closet to events around the community and teams up with other non profits.
Her reward is the smiles on the faces of those she helps, and the people who pay it forward.
"The gratitude that I see from the families that we help, and then they are so willing to turn around and help other people even though they are in need," Ecoff said.
She likes to spread her volunteer skills around. Ecoff spent two months last summer in Guatemala, interning at a safe house for kids teaching English, math and other things many take for granted.
"A lot of them didn't know how to play. They have come from a very bad experience, so it was like getting to know them and helping them open up," Ecoff said.
Ecoff hopes to continue helping those in need while she attends Washington College in Baltimore.
She aspires to be a neurosurgeon.
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