“Volunteering is all about getting a message across to people. I want to make a difference locally and encourage other kids my age to become involved,” says Lauren Means, then 14, the youngest recipient of the 2011 Be More Awards, presented by the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network.

Means was nominated for her work with The Villages, a not-for-profit, child-and-family services agency, and for numerous other projects she has worked on throughout the year. She received the Be More Energized award for her self-initiated projects and her enthusiasm for helping others. A $500 cash prize was donated in her name to The Villages and will be used to help local foster children.

Means first began her volunteer work with The Villages at age 10 by reading stories to younger children in classrooms. “I watched many of the children grow up without parents and I wanted to make a difference in their lives,” she says.

Among Means’ other volunteer achievements are visiting the Appalachian Mountain region twice on mission trips with The Life Church; organizing a canned-food collection at her school, Lighthouse Christian Academy, for Backstreet Missions; collecting donations the past three years for the annual Walk for the Animals; and volunteering at WonderLab science museum every weekend. In 2010 she devoted more than 100 hours to work in the community.

“She has filled a strong need in our community through all of the services she has provided for The Villages and other organizations,” says Pam Jones, vice president of operations for The Villages.

Her goal is to someday work at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.