PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Shawnda James just turned 22 years old.
Driven to serve, the young woman has her eye on volunteerism on both a local and global level. James is the President of Rotaract in Paragould.
"My parents always pushed me and my sister to be in church, to be active in the community and help people whenever you can," James said. "It's kind of like second nature now."
"There's not anything that she won't sign up for or volunteer for," Meredith McMillon, Paragould Rotary secretary said. "She wants to help every way she can."
And that includes a project close to her heart. Her goal is to put teddy bears into the hands of children who need reassurance.
"I'm the vice-president of Zeta Tau Alpha chapter," James said. "Around Christmas, we collect a few teddy bears every year to donate to the Jonesboro Police Department."
Not only did James come up with the idea, she keeps finding sponsors.
"They have gotten so many more than what was expected," McMillon said. "It's been amazing!"
Her soft spot for children started with a child named Saintamene in Haiti.
"My first mission trip, she runs up and grabs my head and starts speaking French," James said. "I was like oh, I don't know what to do."
Shawnda soon discovered that language doesn't matter. Now she sponsors Saintamene and remembers her every time she tries to help foster children in Greene County.
"They get taken away from whatever situation they're in—generally in whatever clothes they have on," James said. "That's it. As a child, I cannot imagine."
Nor could she imagine winning Gr8 Acts of Kindness.
"We want to say thank you for all you do for your community," Allen Williams, Community President at First Community Bank, said.
And 200 more dollars are being given by a private donor to the charity of her choice.
"My mother has congestive heart failure," James said. "She has been struggling with it for a year now. I'd like to donate it to the American Heart Association."
That is a fitting tribute to a young woman who leads with her heart.
"She is so deserving of it," Kaitlyn Poe said.
Poe nominated James for the honor.
"She is one of the best women I know," Poe said. "One of the strongest women I know. I am so proud of her."
James used her winnings of $408 to purchase backpacks, hairbrushes, and other items to assemble comfort kits for the CASA program.
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