Last month at the Make a Difference Day Awards Luncheon, the American Red Cross received a $10,000 grant for Operation Lorax, a community service project developed by AmeriCorps member Christina Escobar.
Last August Escobar served in a Red Cross shelter for people displaced by the Taylor Bridge wildfire in Kittitas County, Washington. She was moved by the destruction of more than 60 homes and 23,000 acres of land.
Having a deep love for volunteerism and giving back to the community, she decided to create a tree planting project for Make a Difference Day on October 27, 2012. “I felt that children needed an opportunity to do something constructive and to be able to participate in the rebuilding process as opposed to feeling helpless and afraid,” Escobar said.
USA Weekend Magazine sponsors Make a Difference Day, an annual service day on the fourth Saturday of October, in partnership with Points of Light and Newman’s Own.
Escobar named the project after the Dr. Seuss character, the Lorax, who spoke out for the environment. With the help of 100 volunteers, including 50 children, and support from the Red Cross and the Washington State Conservation Corps, Operation Lorax successfully planted 1,000 ponderosa pines along the north side of Lookout Mountain and distributed another 1,000 trees to area residents.
“We are extremely proud of Christina and are thrilled that this project has received such an incredible honor,” said Red Cross Regional CEO Terry Pollard. “Christina recognized an immediate need in her community and found a way to get a lot of different people involved in something that is going to have a lasting impact.”
The project competed against thousands of other service projects around the country and was chosen as one of ten finalists to receive a $10,000 grant.
USA Weekend Magazine honored Escobar and the other winners in its April 21 edition. The finalists also flew to Washington, D.C., on April 25 to be honored at a luncheon attended by members of Congress, business leaders and actor Tony Danza.
Escobar is one of more than 300 AmeriCorps members serving in Red Cross regions around the country as a part of the partnership between the Red Cross and AmeriCorps.