In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the next generation is stepping up to give back and make a difference.
Among them are two boys who live hundreds of miles apart, yet found a way to come together to help their vulnerable neighbors.
In Chicago, 12-year-old Jahkil Jackson and his nonprofit, Project I Am, normally assemble and distribute bags filled with hygiene products and other necessities to help homeless men and women in their daily lives.
Last year, Jahkil was honored as a CNN Heroes Young Wonder for his efforts, which he started when he was just 8 years old.
Now, Jahkil says, “this lockdown is not holding me back.” Instead of putting his efforts on hold during Covid-19, he has expanded to help another vulnerable population – senior citizens – in his hometown.
“I don’t think it’s safe for anybody to go outside right now,” Jahkil told CNN. “So, I decided to give them the daily essentials like hand sanitizer, which is very important, wipes, tissue. I feel like those really help them.”
In this time of social distancing, Jahkil is taking every precaution to protect the people he’s helping. He’s dropping off the “blessing bags,” as he calls them, outside a local senior home and refraining from going inside.
“I’m not going to do any interaction because that’s not really safe,” he said.
So far, Jahkil has provided more than 300 of his blessing bags to senior citizens.
“I’m doing my part and helping. And I feel like it’s everyone’s duty to help out where they can,” he said. “Everybody in the world, they’re scared, they’re worried. So, we have to work together to uplift each other.”
Several states away, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, 7-year-old Cavanaugh Bell is filling a similar need.
When Covid-19 hit, Cavanaugh and his mom went grocery shopping for his 74-year-old grandmother, who lives in a nearby senior living community.
Cavanaugh couldn’t help but also worry about his grandmother’s friends. He wondered whether they were getting all the food and other essentials they needed.
“I just wanted to make sure that they were staying home and they were staying safe,” said Cavanaugh, who also runs Cool & Dope, a nonprofit that focuses on anti-bullying efforts.
So, Cavanaugh used his $600 in savings to purchase food and supplies for them.
“My grandma is my best friend. We all love our senior citizens and they mean more to us than anything else,” Cavanaugh said. “I just decided to do something nice for them.”
Word spread, and he started receiving donations to help his mission. To date, his GoFundMe page has raised more than $12,000.
Now, Cavanaugh has opened a community pantry for families in need to pick up care packages filled with food and other necessary household items.
“They sign up on the list, they request a care pack and then we have the care packs ready to go for them,” he said.
Recently, Cavanaugh and Jahkil connected about their mutual cause and how they could team up to get their care packages into the hands of more people.
For starters, Jahkil assembled and sent 50 of his blessing bags to Cavanaugh, who simultaneously sent packages of food items and other supplies to Jahkil.
“I knew that we would be a great team,” Cavanaugh said.
Jahkil used the donations from Cavanaughl to make more blessing bags – helping him reach more seniors and homeless people.
Cavanaugh distributed Jahkil’s blessing bags to those in need through his community pantry.
“I think it’s important for us young kids to work together because kids are very powerful and they can make change, too,” said Jahkil, who plans to coordinate efforts with more young do-gooders throughout the country.
“Anyone can have an impact no matter their age, no matter if they’re older or they’re young. Because whatever you believe you can achieve,” Cavanaugh said. “With love we can get through this together.”