Tweens organize tasting event to raise money for homeless youth drop-in center in Baltimore

Posted at 4:19 PM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-24 17:45:14-05

There are no lulls in the conversation when the girls behind the charity group "Kids Making a Difference" get to talking about their latest project.

During one particular conversation, they discussed what types of food they wanted to making for the "Youth and Young Adults Tasting" event in April.

"We could make cookies!"

"Or what about pizza?"

"You have to be careful about food allergies!"

They may not agree about the food, but 11-year-olds Anjali Joshi and Elizabeth Wierts and 12-year-old Danielle Bayley agree they love helping others.

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"It makes me feel warm inside because I know that I'm giving people what they need in order to survive to be happy," said Joshi.

"It makes me feel really good because I'm giving back to the community and I like helping people who don't have the same opportunities as me," said Bayley.

The girls formed their own charity group after being told they were too young to volunteer with various groups. Their first project was making care packages for the women at My Sister's Place. Their new fundraiser is raising money for the Youth Empowered Society, or Y.E.S., which is Baltimore's first and only drop-in center for homeless youth.

"We consider Y.E.S. as a one-stop shop," said Ciera Dunlap, a case manager at Y.E.S.

The drop-in center helps kids ages 14 to 25. They provide the basics like clothing, food and hygiene products. They also have services like housing, job training and therapy. Dunlap says sometimes the kids are easy to help, while others require more time and patience.

"We let people know we meet you where you're at," Dunlap said. "You don't have to tell me anything you don't feel comfortable telling me. When you're ready, we are here."

Onan Greene, 23, needed some time before he was ready to really seek help. He spent years on the streets, never knowing the source of his next meal. He heard about Y.E.S. and says the organization saved his life.

"I got sick and tired of being sick and tired," said Greene. "It's a community here, it's a family. It's not just a business or homeless center."

Greene's high school classmate Jasmen Jackson, 24, found herself "couch surfing" for several years after she had her first son five years ago. Her biggest challenge was holding down a job, until Dunlap came into the picture.

"I call Ciera saying 'I quit, I can't do this, I'm done. She says 'No you're not, you can't quit, keep going," Jackson said with a laugh.

"All my needs are taken care of where I don't need anything," she said. "It feels so good to be on that side where you don't need nothing because its already taken care of."

And thanks to the kindness and compassion of Joshi, Bayley and Wierts, more homeless youth will find stability in their lives through Y.E.S. They're also proving age is just a number.

"We can do as much as anyone else wants to do or even more, it doesn't matter," said Wierts.

The Youth and Young Adults Tasting event is on Sunday April 2 at the Idlewylde Community Hall in Baltimore from 3-5 p.m. You can purchase tickets online.

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