The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards named an Oceanside Middle School student one of New York’s top youth volunteers of 2013.
The national program, which focuses on outstanding volunteer service, honored Cory Nichols, 12, for his work with local food pantries as part of his program, “C the Difference: Cory Cares.”
After watching a short film called “Hard Times Lost on Long Island” in the summer of 2012, Nichols pledged to raise money and donate $100 worth of food per month to local food pantries as part of his Bar Mitzvah project for Temple Avodah. The program quickly grew beyond the mitzvah project and Nichols said he plans to continue it at least until he graduates from high school.
“I loved seeing the smiles on their faces when I stock the shelves,” Nichols said. “They have such a smile that I was helping them, it was really nice to see and I could feel how appreciated it was.”
Nichols created his own website for the project, Cthedifference.org, and solicited donations from friends and family. For each donation Nichols receives, he sends orange Cory Cares bracelets, which he bought with his own money.
After approximately eight months, Nichols has raised $3,700, well above his goal per month. His mother, Jess Nichols, said that he has received donations of anywhere from $5 to $500 for the project.
“The person who runs the food pantries emails me and tells me what they need,” Nichols explained. “And then we get whatever they need and go and stock the shelves.”
Though Nichols raised a surplus of money, the local pantries asked him to continue to provide only $100 per month. The reasoning, Jess explained, was that the food pantries appreciate having a set amount of money to purchase food for a long period of time. As of now, Nichols will be able to donate food to the pantries every month through June 2015.
In the weeks after Hurricane Sandy, C the Difference temporarily changed its methods.
“After Sandy, we went out and got food and we stood in [St. Anthony’s] and packed bags with loaves of bread, boxes of pasta,” said Nichols, whose family was without power like many others in Oceanside. “We packed like 200 bags of everything people would need.”