With a season of CityYouth and Jr. Leadership training under her belt, 14-year-old Frances was excited to start volunteering at CityKidz Saturday program this spring. But then came coronavirus and all of our in-person programs came to an abrupt halt.
Frances was disappointed, but undeterred. She’d spent the better part of the fall learning about leadership as a call to serve those around her. She decided that just because she couldn’t be on a big red bus or in our theatres as a Jr. Leader on Saturdays, didn’t mean she wasn’t going to find a way to make a difference in her community. She just wasn’t sure how she was going to do this.
“I’m always coming up with crazy ideas. I’m always thinking of ways to help people,” explains Frances with an easy, yet humble, confidence.
“Every night I go to bed and I wake up with a brand new idea. Whatever idea I come up with I’ll take it to the Lord in prayer and he’ll lead me to what is right and then we’ll make it come to pass.”
And it’s true, whether it’s starting a virtual Bible study group for kids in her apartment building or organizing extra-curricular events and clubs for the kids at her school and in her neighbourhood, Frances is always putting thoughtful ideas into action. She’s a girl of hope and conviction.
“I had it turned up because it was daytime and I was cleaning,” her dad remembers, “and Stella came upstairs telling me to turn it down. I turned it down and Amelia woke up. I turned it back up a bit and she fell asleep. So that was her song.”
Amelia’s musical tastes have shifted somewhat over time, but she’s still one-of-a-kind. She’s still got that determination.
Today, Amelia is studying pre-veterinary medicine. It’s taken a lot of motivation and hard work to get to this point. Back in grade six, when Amelia first began to dream of working with animals, her veterinary ambitions seemed unattainable.
Inspiration came at the beginning of May when Frances and her mother were walking downtown near Jackson Square. The sign was simple and heartbreaking, scribbled on a piece of cardboard held by a man who looked worn and tired: Homeless, hungry, anything helps.
“They hadn’t eaten all day,” remembers Frances, “They were hungry and I couldn’t help them and I felt bad about it. I can go into my fridge 24/7 and get food to eat and they can’t do that.”
So Frances gave the man the only thing she had to give, a smile, which he returned in kind. She knew it was all she could do in the moment but she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was work to be done. Work she could do.
“I thought about it and I couldn’t fall asleep and I thought, well, if I can’t fall asleep then I might as well come up with an idea.”
It wasn’t long before an idea came to her: she would put together care packages with food and hopeful Bible verses and give them out to people in need.
“I want it to be perfect… or close to perfect,” she explained.
Frances knows that great things take time and teamwork, and so, right away she started to plan.
She connected with her principal and teachers as well as her CityKidz captain, Susan, to share her idea and get their feedback. Right away they wanted in. They wanted to support Frances’ project in whatever way they could.
So Frances made a plan to go to Costco for supplies. She selected Bible verses filled with hope and comfort to write on each and every care package.
She recruited her friends and teachers to help assemble the packages.
“We’re going to meet in a field to be 6 ft away,” Frances assured me.
She acquired masks and gloves and hand-sanitizer to keep everyone involved safe.
She contacted the Hamilton Police to share her plans and make sure they were acceptable and that she knew all the health and safety precautions to take. She asked if there could be a police officer present to supervise and make sure everyone would be safe.
“Other than that,” says Frances, “we’re going to wait for what the Lord says to do.”
Frances made her way downtown and set herself up just before noon on Saturday. Her mom was there with her, as was her principal, several of her teachers and a police officer. Right away they started distributing the care packages.
“It was fun because everyone was so nice,” says Frances.
She admits she was a little surprised at how friendly and even happy everyone seemed despite their very challenging circumstances. Frances remembers one woman in particular. The woman was pregnant and homeless but, the woman shared with Frances, she was clean and working towards finding a home for herself.
“She was in a hard situation, but in that moment she was so happy,” remembers Frances, “I wont forget that moment for sure.”
After a few short hours, Frances and her team had given out well over 100 care packages to people in need. But not only had she delivered critical necessities to some of the most vulnerable people in our city, she had also delivered a shining ray of hope into the too-often forgotten and ignored lives of her city’s most vulnerable.
“I intend to keep doing that, to keep helping as much as I can,” Frances reflected on the day.
At every step, Frances put tremendous thought and even more heart into her project. We at CityKidz couldn’t be more proud of Frances’ shining example of faith, leadership and initiative. At just 14, Frances is filled with passion, hope, dreams and drive and we can’t wait to see where her beautiful gifts take her next.