He consistently combats the conditions that create poverty in Poughkeepsie – and works tirelessly to help those in need. And, for that effort, Jimmy Kelly '09, of nearby Pleasant Valley, was recently awarded the 2007 Hometown Hero Award by the American Red Cross.
"It's awesome that these issues are getting recognized," said Kelly. "But I shouldn't have to be recognized for trying to make a difference. Service is not about being nominated for an award—it's about bringing attention to the issues."
The awards are presented annually by the American Red Cross of Dutchess County to honor individuals in the community who have had a profound impact on the lives of others. To be nominated for the award, the recipient must demonstrate a lifelong commitment to exemplary, selfless behavior. For Kelly, his service achievements transcend expectation.
Since founding Operation Donation four years ago at Arlington High School, Kelly's group, which donates money and groceries to those in need, has raised more than $30,000 worth of groceries and $10,000 for local groups and individuals. Last year alone, in its second year at Vassar, the organization donated $5,000 worth of groceries to several local charities, including the Grace Smith House and River Haven Shelter in Dutchess County.
Along with Vassar classmate Rachel Glicksman, Kelly also conducted research about affordable housing in Poughkeepsie, and presented their findings to local politicians over the past year. The two testified before Dutchess County Housing Coalition and the Poughkeepsie City Council, demonstrating that 22.7 percent of all Poughkeepsie citizens live below the national poverty line, and that 2.7 minimum wage jobs are required to pay for standard affordable housing in Poughkeepsie.
Not one to rest, Kelly and 80 students from across the nation will support the National Student Day of Action for an Equitable Farm Bill on Friday, September 21, 2007 in Washington, D.C. The group, which Kelly co-founded with a student at George Washington University, will meet with more than 28 senators in recognition of farmers living in poverty.
Kelly is also active in a number of other groups across the campus and in Poughkeepsie, including the local Rotaract and Hunger Action, and serves as the leader of the local branch of Oxfam CHANGE. He is also a member of the Campus Community Advisory Committee, and is the Vice President for Activities in the Vassar Student Association, where he acts as a campus liaison to Poughkeepsie.
As for Kelly's future after Vassar? He'd like to continue his fight against poverty by working for a non-governmental organization (NGO).
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.
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