Elk Mound (WQOW)- She jumps in feet first, and where Kaileigh Stangel leads, others follow.
The Elk Mound teen is the president of her school's National Honor Society. She heads the group of volunteers, raising money by dropping body temperature for Special Olympics. Around a dozen honor society members took the Polar Plunge. They've donated time to many different causes, volunteer opportunities that Kaileigh has helped to coordinate, including ringing bells for the Salvation Army. "To be able to do things with my close friends and my classmates, that's just kind of cool," explains Kaileigh.
And while others her age would prefer to fill shopping bags at the mall, Kaileigh is bagging green onions at an area food pantry. "It's something I think I would really miss if I didn't get a chance to do it," the teen says with a smile.
On the third Monday of each month, the basement bustles at Shepherd of the Hill Lutheran Church in Elk Mound. It's transformed into the site of Ruby's Pantry.
"I feel good that I come to help," says Kaileigh humbly. "It's just my time, that's all I'm giving."
The pantry's coordinator says it takes anywhere between 40 and 60 volunteers to get everything off the ground. Ruby's Pantry is a hand up, not a hand out. Often, families pay a small donation and leave with over $100 worth of groceries. "I remember the first time we did it," recalls coordinator Greg Kinblom. "A lady gave me a big hug and she had tears in her eyes. I said, 'What's wrong?' and she said you will never know what this means to my family."
"Kaileigh is great," adds Greg. "She's always here, open handed and willing to help people and it just fits with her character."
"When she knew she won this award she got off the phone and was almost crying," reveals Kaileigh's mom. "She said 'Mom, they chose me! And I don't really feel like I do all that much. Not as much as I want to.' And I said, 'That's why they chose you. Because you pack in so much, and to you it's natural.'"
Kaileigh tutors younger band students, wrote and produced her high school's paper and spent several summers volunteering in the laundry room of a local hospital. Come Christmas you can find her ringing bells and wrapping Toys for Tots. In between all that, she finds time to study! Kaileigh is a senior who has plans to go into the nursing field when she graduates this spring.
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