"To me philanthropy... isn't just going to a soup kitchen once a week and helping out people; it's actually making community service part of your life."
This is a philosophy that Yoni Kalin is happy to talk about, but he does more than talk. Yoni has dedicated his life to community service. Yoni has been involved in community service projects from a young age, often assisting his parents with the service projects in which they were participating. For his Bar Mitzvah in 2007, Yoni created his own project which involved collecting books for Israeli students seeking to learn English.
Eventually, Yoni founded Color My World (CMW) after a family dinner at a local Outback Steakhouse. He noticed that waiters clearing the tables were throwing away small packs of crayons that had been placed there for young diners. "I thought, if one restaurant throws out a few crayons, how many thousands are being thrown out" around the country, says Yoni. Inspired to take action, Yoni contacted several Outback Steakhouses to ask if they would donate "used" crayons which Yoni would donate to schools in need.
Yoni has since donated over 11,300 crayons from 33 restaurants in nine states. All of Color My World's volunteers are middle school, high school, or college students who commit their unpaid time to the cause. The organization is built on the dedication of these members, the support of local partners, and the strong sense of community that CMW strives to achieve.
Yoni knew that he wanted to give back, but says, "I think the biggest struggle is having the determining and trying to get past the fact that you're a kid. I mean, I'm a teenager and most people don't expect us to do anything but kind of go crazy and get in trouble...Breaking that barrier, starting with the first person saying "Hey, I want to make a difference" is the always hardest, but once you start it gets easier and easier because people respect you and see what you're doing.
In 2011, the BE BIG in Your Community Contest recognized Yoni and the Color My World team for the BIG achievements, as First Prize Winners. The CMW team brought this BIG idea to fruition with a celebration of Earth Day at the Rosemount Early Childhood and Family Support Center in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Six Color My World teen volunteers from Miami, Maryland, DC and Virginia joined 50 preschoolers and their teachers for a special assembly on recycling. The CMW volunteers read a book on recycling, sharing the story's messages in English and Spanish.CMW teens then acted out ways to recycle and lead an interactive talk with the kids on how to recycle. CMW then presented the kids with a green recycling bin packed with 1,000 crayons and gave each child a custom-designed recycling-themed coloring book created with BIG IDEA support. According to Yoni, "The Project's goal is to recycle, repurpose, and educate a rising generation to value the environment. Crayons can help stimulate children's imaginations and nurture their dreams. With Color My World, we will color outside the lines and together draw a picture of a better future."
About BE BIG:
The BE BIG in Your Community Contest is a signature component of the ongoing Clifford The Big Red Dog(r) BE BIG!(tm) campaign. The national contest invited participants to submit a BIG idea that demonstrates Clifford's Big Ideas (Share, Help Others, Be Kind, Be Responsible, Play Fair, Be a Good Friend, Believe in Yourself, Have Respect, Work Together and Be Truthful) for a chance to win a community grant to be used toward implementing the winning proposals. Scholastic partners with with the HandsOn Network and generationOn to bring the BE BIG Fund to life in your local community.