Local teen earns Prudential Spirit of Community award

NOW: Local teen earns Prudential Spirit of Community award

LA PORTE, Ind. --- A high school student from La Porte is being recognized as one of two top honorees in the state for her dedicated volunteer work.

17-year-old Emily Graves is a senior at New Prairie High School, but her volunteer efforts started from a young age.

Graves started a non-profit called Cookies for Soldiers at the age of six years old.

Cookies for Soldiers has delivered over 35,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to active and former military personnel.

As a young Girl Scout, Graves was challenged to think of ways she could help others with the cookies she was already selling.

Graves used her own piggy-bank money to purchase a few boxes of cookies, but that soon turned into 600 more boxes with the help of donations.

All boxes were shipped to U.S. service members both domestic and overseas.

“Active soldiers, especially when they’re abroad, they’re often separated from their families, they’re obviously separated from their home,” said Emily Graves. “They might not have a lot of comforts at the moment. It’s a very hard situation to be in so by giving them a box of cookies, I want to give them a small piece of home.”

Fast forward 11 years later, Graves is about to begin college and has delivered more than 35,000 boxes of cookies to military personnel.

“It really opened my eyes that there’s that need out there where the soldiers don’t feel appreciated or welcomed home,” said Michael Graves, Emily’s Father. “And that was one of the big things we’ve learned over time is just saying welcome home to them means a big thing to them.”

Emily’s volunteer work has now earned her one of two spots as a top honoree in the state of Indiana by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards has awarded Graves with a $1,000 reward and a silver medallion, with a chance at becoming a top national honoree.

Emily has gained the support of more than 150 volunteers to assist in shipping out the boxes. Emily has also gotten the chance to hand the cookies out personally at veterans hospitals, Honor Flights and more.

“It can be lonely,” said Emily Graves. “Feeling that you’re left behind, that your efforts aren’t being valued by the public and so receiving a cookie for them shows them that they are seen and that somebody still cares about what they have done.”

Emily’s efforts have touched the lives of many soldiers, some of whom still stay in contact after her generous donations.

“For many of the veterans, they’ve been extremely touched by it,” said Emily Graves. “Many of them are still in touch with me. Some of them are very close family friends now through Cookies for Soldiers and many of them who have received a box start getting involved in Cookies for Soldiers and helping us reach more veterans.”

Emily will also travel down to Washington, D.C. in early May where the top youth volunteers from the nation will be named.

Cookies for Soldiers accepts donations year-round. For more information, you can visit the Cookies for Soldiers, Inc Facebook page here.

Cookies for Soldiers can also be reached at:

PO Box 434

Rolling Prairie, IN 46371

For more information about the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, click here.

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