Media – Tennessean.

2 Williamson County students honored by national volunteer awards program

, USA TODAY NETWORK – TennesseePublished 9:00 a.m. CT Feb. 23, 2018

Just over 100 students are honored annually by the nation’s largest youth volunteer awards program — two per state — for outstanding volunteer service. And this year, both of Tennessee’s honorees for the program, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, are Williamson County students.

Sydnee Floyd, an eighth-grader at Woodland Middle School, and Zachary Wolfson, a senior at Franklin High School, were among the 102 state honorees selected across the U.S. for their dedication to helping people in need.

Zachary Wolfson is the founder of Threads of Care,

Zachary founded Threads of Care, an organization he created about two years ago that’s dedicated to collecting and distributing clothing to teens in poverty.

The group has made significant progress since then. To date, it has collected more than 9,470 articles of clothing. That includes 1,300 pairs of underwear and 373 pairs of socks — items that are most needed by teens living in poverty or in homeless shelters, Zachary said. Threads of Care also has raised $3,640 since it started, Zachary said.

“It’s all used to purchase underwear and socks, (which) you can’t really get donated unless it’s brand new,” he said.

The group quickly expanded to include chapters at other high schools, including Ravenwood, Brentwood, Centennial, Independence and Page. There’s also an emerging chapter in Oak Ridge.

Sydnee Floyd got her first taste of volunteering not in Williamson County, but in Whitley County, Kentucky. She began to notice at school that some of her classmates didn’t have resources for their basic needs. “My own friends at my school didn’t have enough food to make it through the week. That changes your perspective on things,” she said.  Sydnee began working to change that, with help from her mother, Jennifer, who was employed at the local college, the University of the Cumberlands.

In August 2016, the mother and daughter moved to Franklin. While it was a shock for Sydnee, who moved from a town with about 5,000 people to a city of 75,000, she quickly sought ways to continue her passion for helping others. The 13-year-old has made and sold scarves to raise money for students in Uganda to buy food and school supplies, sponsored a girl in Nicaragua through the humanitarian aid organization Compassion International, and has organized multiple food drives for GraceWorks Ministries in Franklin and Feed America First in Murfreesboro through her role as student council president.

She’s also filled and donated 100 toiletry bags for the Nashville Rescue Mission. Sydnee’s relentless work didn’t go unnoticed. It was her principal, Priscilla Fizer, who pushed her to apply for the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

“Sydnee Floyd is an example for us all,” Fizer said in a news release earlier this month from Williamson County Schools. “Her kindness and compassion is continually apparent as she takes on worthwhile projects, always wanting to do more. Sydnee’s life of service is just beginning and we applaud her spirit and tenacity.”

She’s now starting a nonprofit that welcomes all kinds of assistance, no matter how small.  “There are many different ways to help people. It doesn’t have to be donating a huge check. It can just be, even at school, picking up (someone’s) books in the hallways, or donating $5 a month to a charity,” Sydnee said. “I want people to realize every person has different needs.”

Both local winners will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expenses-paid trip in April to Washington, D.C., for a national recognition event. During that trip, 10 of the state honorees will be named national honorees. Each will receive an additional $5,000, a gold medallion and a $5,000 grant for a nonprofit of their choice.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Reach Elaina Sauber at esauber@tennessean.com or 615-571-1172 and on Twitter @ElainaSauber. 

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