On Monday morning, students at Glen Burnie Park Elementary School filed noisily into the school gym and sat criss-cross, fiddling with shoe laces and chattering excitedly as they waited for the day’s assembly to begin.
“Today we’re here to honor someone who once sat where you did,” Theresha Zablonski, Principal of Glen Burnie Park, told the students. “Amber was not so different from you, attending her classes, listening to her teachers, working hard to get good grades, and learning about the world. And when she was in the third grade, her heart was so full of compassion for other people, she dedicated her life to serving others.”
Eighteen years after founding Happy Helpers for the Homeless, an organization that distributes food and toiletries to homeless people in Baltimore and Glen Burnie, Amber Coffman, a Central Maryland Girl Scout Alumna, returned to her roots at Glen Burnie Park Elementary to be honored for her achievement and dedication to service.
The organization began as a small operation when Amber was in the third grade. Amber, her mother and her friends would gather in their kitchen on Saturday mornings and make 200 bag lunches to distribute to the homeless and various shelters in Glen Burnie and Baltimore. Today, the organization is still going strong with a headquarters located in Baltimore and more than 100 volunteers helping each week. Amber said that over the years more than 700,000 lunches have been distributed in Baltimore and the organization has spread across the country and beyond.
Amber challenged the students to take their education seriously and to fill their hearts with compassion for those around them.
“I remember sitting here right where you are today, legs crossed and with holes in my tennis shoes and thinking ‘Wow, what will I do with my life one day,’ and the answer for me was serving others,” Amber said. “Just remember you are never too young to be a role model and you are never too young to serve others. Be a shining light in this world and others will want to be just like you.”
Watch the video to see Amber talk about the founding of Happy Helpers for the Homeless and how her volunteer work has shaped her life.