First Posted: 5/13/2009
For the most part, Gentry Williamsons birthday bash last month was like any other 11-year-olds party. There was plenty of cake, games and, of course, presents.
This years gifts were a little more special than usual he managed to get everything he asked for.
But instead of asking for gifts for himself, he asked that all his party guests bring money money which he donated to the Greater Mount Airy Area Habitat for Humanity in honor of his grandmother, who volunteered there.
So, with nearly $700 collected from his 70 guests, he handed it all over to the non-profit agency, which builds affordable homes for families in need.
Its really awesome that a young person would take a special day like his birthday when he could get goodies, and instead take a stand from selfishness by asking his friends to contribute to habitat in honor of his grandmother, said Tim VanHoy, executive director of habitat. She obviously had a good impact on him and made a difference in his life. Were thrilled to know that his grandma donated 14 years to habitat, that in itself is amazing that she gave that much time.
Gentrys grandmother, who died in March, volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity in Davidson County.
The fifth-grade Millennium Charter Academy student said he was inspired by his grandmothers volunteerism with habitat because he thought it was a neat way to help people. He even joined the Habitat for Humanity Club at his school last fall.
Its fun to help people who dont have homes, he said, adding that through his club at school he has built benches and planters for school and held bake sales to help raise money.
He said he learned from his grandmother that there is a lot of effort that goes into it, but that its still rewarding.
I do it for fun, he said, adding that he recommends other kids his age do it, too. We do a lot of things, but theyre still fun things to help others.
Christi Speer, the advisor for the Habitat Club at Millennium Charter Academy, said the idea to start the club was sparked by the students interest. As part of their seventh-grade math class, they have to make floor plans for habitat homes.
It sparked their interest and they wanted to get more involved, Speer said. Im proud of my kids and how theyre excited to show up. Im proud of Gentry, hes always been a big helper.
VanHoy said its not the first time a young person has set out to help the local habitat, but hes still amazed by their efforts to help.
Thats the amazing thing about young people in Surry County who want to do things for habitat, he said, mentioning one group of students who collected pennies for habitat and another student who had helped with a recycling program that also raises money for the organization. Weve had young people to step up before, but were still excited and amazed by it.
He said there are numerous things that can be done with the $672 Gentry donated.
Some people may donate toward specific things like to help buy tools and food for volunteers, sometimes folks designate money or some folks ask that it cover whats needed. He had no stipulations. I think that he was inspired by his grandmother, he said. The fact that he wanted to do something above and beyond is great. Kids get a lot of accolades when they score touchdowns or bank shots, this is just as important, especially when … theyre as giving of their hearts as this, sometimes you score in the game and the game is over, but this is peoples lives.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.