Moira Landry and her mother were on a visit to New York City when a woman approached and asked for a dollar for lunch.
Landry, then 9, noticed the woman was carrying a big bag. Her mother, Mindy Hanlon, explained the woman was homeless and the bag probably contained all her belongings.
Landry was deeply touched. Returning home to Swampscott, she got involved with Cradles to Crayons, a Boston-based organization that provides low-income and homeless kids with essential items. She volunteered there for four years.
“I was able to empathize with the kids,” said Landry.
At 12, she looked into starting her own nonprofit. “There was no age limit,” she said. “So, I figured why wait. I wanted to do it then.”
With her mother’s help, she launched Hope for Creativity, which supplies backpacks of art supplies to homeless children.
“I’m passionate about art and making a difference in people’s lives,” Landry said. “I know when kids are homeless they don’t have the opportunity to be creative, and I wanted to give that to them.”
Now 18 and a senior at Swampscott High School, Landry recently won a national President’s Volunteer Service Award for the fifth year in a row.
Since 2009, Landry and her team of volunteers have assembled 3,500 packages and hand-delivered them to shelters and motels where homeless families live in the state.
The art supplies are for ages 2 to 18: Play-Doh, crayons, and construction paper for toddlers; pastels, markers, and sketchbooks for the older kids.
“They are always really excited,” Landry said.
She spends about 10 hours a week working for the organization, and more when assembling packages. She will continue to serve as president when she goes to Brandeis University in the fall, where she plans on majoring in sociology and politics, with a minor in creative arts and social transformation.
“It amazes me every day how far we have come,” Landry said. “I’m working on a five-year plan now. There’s a lot of opportunity for expanding, and I am looking forward to seeing how much of an impact we can make.”Wendy Killeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.