- Loudoun County Public Schools
NEST4US Is Make a Difference Award Winner
“You don’t have to be an adult to change the world….You can be a kid and still make a difference in people’s lives.”—Shreyaa Venkat
Making a difference in the community is the fundamental mission of NEST4US, which is why the non-profit organization, founded by sisters who attend Broad Run High School, was selected as a 2020 Make a Difference Award winner by the School-Business Partnership Executive Council. (Additional School-Business Partnership Executive Council award winners will be named in the coming weeks.)
Senior Shreyaa Venkat and her sister, freshman Esha Venkat, created NEST4US four years ago. NEST stands for a “Newer Environment Starts Today.” Initially, their goal was to provide a means of addressing hunger by channeling excess food from those who had too much to those in need. With support and mentoring from other leaders, Shreyaa and Esha transformed a family passion for participating in community service into a non-profit organization that now:
- Has rescued more than 12,000 pounds of food;
- Has more than 550 volunteers;
- Has conducted more than 225 volunteer events; and
- Has been recognized with 14 prestigious awards.
Based on the premise that “there’s a nest for everyone,” NEST4US features programs that serve different community needs and that rely on the talents of multigenerational volunteers. The programs include:
- NEST Nurtures, the foundational food rescue program that now serves 21 homeless shelters and food banks in the DC-metro area;
- NEST Tutors, a free-tutoring program operating in 19 elementary schools;
- NEST Kares, a program that provides school supplies for at-risk students and “blessing bags” of toiletries and other supplies for the homeless or those who need disaster relief; and
- NEST Buddies, a program that provides a “birthday in a box” for underprivileged students who may not otherwise enjoy a birthday celebration.
The impact of NEST4US has touched virtually every Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) school, either by providing a service to the school, like tutoring their students or rescuing their food, or by offering volunteer opportunities so that students may get involved. Brambleton Middle School, for instance, packed trail mix bags for homeless veterans as part of their September 11 Day of Service.
Esha shared an account of speaking to students recently at Waxpool Elementary. The next weekend, one of the Waxpool students joined NEST4US at Franklin Park in Washington D.C. to help feed the homeless. “I’m glad it’s actually sticking in kids’ heads that this is something they can do and that they’re taking initiative so early on. That’s really, really remarkable to see,” Esha said.
NEST4US was nominated for the Make a Difference Award by Mill Run and Dominion Trail elementary schools. Both schools participate in the food rescue and tutoring programs. Shreyaa and Esha said they were thankful to Broad Run Principal David Spage, Mill Run Principal John Cornely and Dominion Trail Principal Jeff Joseph for supporting their endeavors.
The organization promotes its events and sign up opportunities to volunteer through a robust website, as well as a presence on several social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. They conduct a positivity campaign through the sites with themed posts like “Fight Hunger Fridays.”
The Venkat sisters say they share the work of running the non-profit because they share a passion for service. “We divide, and we conquer because we love doing what we do,” said Esha. “We get to do it with people that we enjoy being with, like friends. We get to meet new people to make friends, including the homeless people…. They just want someone to talk to,” Shreyaa added.
The sisters say their organization will continue to fulfill its mission even after Shreyaa leaves Loudoun County to attend college next year. “Regardless of where I go, the problem of homelessness and food waste is not just in D.C., it’s not just in Maryland and it’s not just in Virginia. There are always people looking for ways to get involved. There are always people in need. I’ll get to do this with a whole new set of people. We’ll get to expand locally, and then our plan is to expand to other states and soon nationally and hopefully globally,” Shreyaa said.
A recent highlight for the organization and its founders was Shreyaa’s recognition as one of 10 “L’Oreal Women of Worth” in December. The honor earned a $10,000 grant for NEST4US, an appearance on “Good Morning, America” and an unforgettable introduction of Shreyaa at a red-carpet gala in New York City by actress Viola Davis. “She is so sweet, and she shares the same passion as us—fighting hunger. Something people don’t know about her is that she grew up with hunger. It’s a cause she holds very close to her heart,” Shreyaa said.
Shreyaa and Esha say that a new NEST program will be launched later in 2020. They say full details will be disclosed at a later date.
The Loudoun County School-Business Partnership Executive Council will recognize NEST4US at its 21st Annual School-Business Partnership Breakfast on Friday, March 13th. The breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the National Conference Center in Leesburg.
Table sponsorships for this event are now available.
- Deluxe table sponsorships for the School-Business Partnership Breakfast cost $1,500. This includes a preferred-location table, logo placement in the program, logo placement in the pre-breakfast presentation, logo placement on the stage and five seats at a 10-person table (the remaining five seats will be donated to school staff and teachers).
- A triple table sponsorship is $1,500. This includes five seats at each of three tables with the remaining five seats donated to school staff and teachers.
- A double table sponsorship is $1,000. This includes five seats at each of two tables with the remaining five seats donated to school staff and teachers.
- A single table sponsorship is $500. This includes five seats for the sponsor with the remaining five seats donated to school staff and teachers.
- An individual seat costs $50.
Sponsorships are now available at http://www.cvent.com/d/7hq1v8/4W
The deadline for registration is Friday, March 6th.
The National Conference Center is located at 18980 Upper Belmont Place, Leesburg.