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Volunteering leads to Bronze Congressional Award for Anna Clare Kelly

MADISON – Most people would be complacent after receiving a national award. Not Anna Clare Kelly, who has set her sights on the next level as a Congressional Award winner.

Anna Clare has earned the Bronze Congressional Award for her volunteering at Madison Senior Center. She is a prospective freshman at Westminster Christian Academy.

The 14-year-old started working on the award in summer 2021, as soon as she was eligible. Award guidelines require volunteers to be 13.5 years minimum. Anna Clare’s siblings, 16-year-old Belle and 18-year-old Joseph, both have received Congressional Award Gold Medals.

In 1979, the U.S. Congress established the Congressional Award to recognize initiative, service and achievement in youth. The Congressional Award provides opportunities for young people to unleash their potential by achieving personal goals focused on volunteerism, character development and fitness. (congressionalaward.org)

“Anna Clare is striving for Gold but wanted to go ahead and submit for the Bronze medal as a milestone step to get there,” her mother Kristi Kelly said. Joe Kelly is Anna Clare’s father.

“The award process is rigorous. Sometimes, the committee will ask for revisions and/or not approve anything that doesn’t fit guidelines. It’s wise to do a lower level to make sure everything is going well,” Kristi said.

“The award has taught me commitment and having a goal and sticking with it. It gives me structure to keep doing these activities and stay focused,” Anna Clare said

Anna Clare had to satisfy defined categories for Bronze level:

* Voluntary public service –Volunteering at Madison Senior Center. 135 hours to-date.

* Personal development – Working on art skills in colored pencil. Created a related website, hold-still.com. 111 hours to-date.

* Physical fitness – Improving her tennis skills and started running in 2021. 158 hours to-date.

* Exploration – Explored virtually instead of overnight trips because of COVID-19. Anna Clare interviewed her tennis coach from the Netherlands and found numerous topics for research. Anna Clare read a novel, watched a movie and a documentary, studied architecture and art — all related to the Netherlands — and wrote a lengthy report about her research.

By far, Madison Senior Center has been Anna Clare’s favorite activity. “She has learned that she really has a heart for working with seniors and is considering a career path that would include some sort of elderly care,” Kristi said. “She has learned their names and tells us all sorts of fun interactions with them.”

“Senior Center Director Levoneia Ayers and LaWanda Mason, Activities Coordinator, have been amazing to work with Anna Clare and let her come when she is out of school,” Kristi said. “Madison Senior Center is basically open the same schedule as school so she has spent her school holidays volunteering as much as possible.”

Anna Clare often handles the front desk, assists with events, makes goodie bags and is involved with fun ideas for the seniors. Ayers refers to Anna Clare as “our amazing youth volunteer.”

The center staff has trusted Anna Clare with plenty of responsibilities: answering the telephone, handling challenges, taking initiative and talking to and collaborating with people across generations.

“Madison Senior Center allows me to get out of my comfort zone and get a real taste of a working environment,” Anna Clare said. “The center gives me a chance to get to know people who are not like me. The seniors who come there represent many nationalities and are a different generation.”

Anna Clare also likes hearing about the ‘seniors’ day. “What gets me there is the goal of the award but what keeps me there is the people I’m around when I’m there.”

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