Small Town Giving with Big Heart Style

Chapter members creating tie blankets to donate.

Royal Neighbors of America Member Heath Smith believes in supporting families in his community. “Sherrard, IL is a small town with a big heart,” said Heath. “There is so much we can do together.”

As the eighth-grade girl’s basketball coach at Sherrard Junior High School, Heath inspires youth to be the best they can be and make a difference for others.

Every year, Heath recommends community projects to give his team opportunities to give back. In December 2020, the team chose to support Operation Santa.

Students at Sherrard High School began Operation Santa in 1990 to ensure students in the Sherrard School District have a happy holiday season. Over the last 30 years, the program has evolved and changed to provide the greatest impact in the community. Students use creativity and a variety of fundraisers to provide gift cards, holiday gifts, basic-necessities, and food for neighbors in need.

“We distributed more than $9,000 last year,” said Vanessa Schulenberg, special education teacher at Sherrard High School. “In a year like 2020, we were grateful to have so much support from the community and help many Sherrard students and families.”

With help from the Difference Maker Fund, Heath and his team purchased gifts, supplies, and food for a traditional Christmas dinner. Coaches, teammates, and parents gathered on the court to wrap gifts, and create tie blankets to provide a little extra warmth and love. The team extended the reach of Operation Santa by providing for an additional seven families in the community.

“We have an amazing team,” said Heath, “and their talents go well beyond the court.”

As a Royal Neighbors member, you can make a difference in your community. If your application is approved, the Difference Maker Fund will provide $200 in funding for your volunteer project. Choose the cause you want to support through volunteerism and then it’s as easy as applying, receiving the funds, and sharing your story with us! Learn more and apply here.