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She started volunteering age 6. She's still going at 13

Words by Tess Becker

Age is just a number when it comes to putting good out in the world and making a difference. Sometimes it can be as small as a five-year-old picking up trash around their favorite playground or helping their parents organize their recyclables.

But some kids just want to do more, and that was the case with Ava Gresser.

Ava, like many kids, wanted to help make a small difference around her, and with the support of her family began volunteering with the Honeycomb Project, a Chicago-area non-profit at the age of 6. 

“I live in Chicago, and we have the infamous Dan Ryan expressway and there's a whole bunch of litter that's on the sides of them in the grass area,” Ava tells Smiley News. “I asked my mom, why there was so much litter on the sides of the highway and the home and if there was anything we could do. So that was a great question.

“A lot of organizations, they really weren't open to kids volunteering with them but the Honeycomb Project was open to that. I've been with them since.”

Ava is 13 now and has been with Honeycomb for seven years. Charity work and volunteering have become something of a tradition in her immediate family with her mother and to a lesser degree father and brother. 

“One time I was with my mom at a woman's shelter and we were making food for them,” Ava says. “Seeing all the women there and seeing them with their children and seeing them by themselves just really made me open my eyes and make it know that I should be grateful for everything that I have and spend the time as much time with my family as I can.”

Her mother, Helen Dixon, has been a big influence in the work she does, supporting her early journey, and with her other family members actively participating in volunteering efforts. 

“As a mom I'm really really proud of just the person that she is and will continue to evolve to be," Helen tells Smiley News. "I know that's the direct influence and impact of the Honeycomb Project and just grooming leadership skills right and, and taking ownership for not just seeing a problem but being a part of the solution and problem-solving.

“Especially when that young, I mean, just to kind of see them, take that kind of level of ownership has been great.”

Her brother Alec, who’s eight years old has also been following in his sister’s footsteps, taking part in Honeycomb community projects.

“He started volunteering when he was like two or three years old because of me,” Ava says. “It was really, my brother who loved going to the projects. He loves, baking cookies, and he likes helping senior citizens and whenever we talk about senior citizens making cookies, or going to clean up the beach, he's always volunteering to go.”

Today Ava is a field correspondent for the Honeycomb Project following an Instagram account she made during the pandemic called AdvocatingWithAva.

In general, she’s thankful for Honeycomb and how it’s shaped her volunteer experience and is looking forward to the future of her advocacy.

“I feel like the Honeycomb Project has made volunteering so much more fun,” Ava says. “And it's made it fun for kids where they want to get up and they want to go help the community. So I feel like I would stay doing this to high school, maybe even college.”

Find out more and support the Honeycomb Project.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnership for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs