“Youth Empowering Youth” is the motto of the Sharing the Love Foundation, and that is exactly what Founder and Executive Director Marian Stewart wants to do. “My idea for this was to encourage youth to make an impact in the lives of others,” she said.
Stewart began her vision in 1981 as an employee with the Chicago Housing Authority, which was once one of the largest such agencies in the United States. Her 15 years at the organization built her skills as a youth community organizer, and she has dedicated her life to helping youth reach their highest potential.
“My dream was to make an impact with the youth in Texas communities, and in 2012 that became a reality,” Stewart said. Sharing the Love works in Kaufman and Van Zandt counties, with kids participating from Forney, Terrell, Kaufman, Crandall and Wills Point. Programs focus on leadership, health, education and sustainability.
The foundation promotes teen leadership, with mentors and “Young Ambassadors,” who are the building blocks for the program. The Young Ambassadors are junior high- and high school-age kids who implement community service projects put on by the foundation.
“We do a lot of community service,” said Laura Estrada a Young Ambassador past president. “One of my favorite community service projects was when we went Easter egg hunting with the children from the Kaufman Children’s Center—it was nice to go love on them and give them candy because they haven’t seen that in a while.”
Other projects have included Turkey Trax, Senior Angel Tree and a Veterans 5K run that raised funds for the Forney Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Even though community service is a big part of the Sharing the Love Foundation, it is all aimed at raising young leaders. The Young Ambassadors program encourages the kids to become mentors for younger children and their peers, embrace diversity, strive for higher education and to fulfill their civic duty by serving the community and planet. According to Stewart, the goal is, “to encourage them to reach their highest potential and to love themselves and others.”
For more information, visit sharingthelove.org.