A Young Person’s Personal Crusade to Reach Out to People in Need

Amid all the tales of the struggles of young teenagers comes the story of a 14-year-old who thinks big as a Western sky.

About 1 a.m. one December morning, Stivers School for the Arts eighth grader Trey Melvin was lying in bed, when he had the idea that he wanted to do something to help his community. He got up, logged on to his computer and began a search of Greater Dayton nonprofits. The Dayton Foundation’s web site “just popped up,” he said, and got his attention. After phoning the Foundation, he determined he would raise $800 for the Foundation to use to help local children and families in need.

Trey, who is interested in theater and creative writing and is the creator of his own alternative newsletter for Stivers eighth graders – The Melvin Gazette – started with a plan. He decided to call his project “Making a Way on Valentine’s Day,” the day he planned to conclude his fundraising effort. He mapped out a series of ways he would raise the money – sales of his newsletter, candy, T-shirts, and baked goods made by a neighbor and his grandmother.

With all the school closings for bad weather, he extended his fundraiser from four to seven weeks, but also the size of his goal. In the end, he raised $1,100 and presented it to Foundation Governing Board Chair Fred C. Setzer, Jr., at the Board’s March meeting. The Board planned a surprise for Trey and his mother. They had a check for $2,900 as a match for his gift, personally contributed by Board members, making Trey’s total gift to charity $4,000.

Trey got to hand the grant to Salvation Army Dayton Area Commander Major Tom Duperree to help build The Salvation Army Kroc Community Center just north of downtown Dayton. The facility will offer educational, worship and recreational facilities for families and a shelter for women and children. Trey had not known that Major Duperree would be there – and in full dress uniform to boot. The Major and Foundation President Mike Parks told Trey how proud they were of him, and the Major informed Trey his gift was helping to build a center that would benefit hundreds of thousands of people.

Trey’s fundraising effort was not a school project – it was Trey’s personal crusade to reach out to people in need and to demonstrate to other young people that you don’t need to be an adult to make a difference. So what makes a 14-year-old look so far beyond himself to identify with and seek to fill the needs of others?

No stranger to a struggle, Trey grew up without a father. But in his corner has always been his mother, who is his most important role model. “She’s such a caring person,” he said. “She has shown me how to respond and react to life. She’s always been there, never given up on me in anything I’ve ever done. And as I was growing up, my mom’s always told me it’s better to give than to receive.

“One day I was in the Martin Luther King oratorical contest, and I was up against a girl who talked about the homeless and other people less fortunate. She said that when she was an adult she hoped to make a difference and provide homes for the homeless. And I thought, ‘Why wait till I get older? I can make a difference now!’”

He stopped and thought for a minute. “We as kids get a lot and don’t really work for it. There are people who work a lot and don’t get as much as we do. We take it for granted and don’t appreciate it as much as we should. If you just take, take, take…well, it’s a horrible way to live. I think that when you take, you should always give back. I want kids to learn it’s very important to give back to the community.

“Homeless families and kids aren’t as fortunate. How will they get help? How did we evolve to become as wealthy as we are? If we don’t help them, who will?”

Out of the mouth of “babes.”

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File date: 9.20.14


Charles Simms

“You get a good feeling giving to the community through The Dayton Foundation and knowing that you’re inspiring future generations.” – Charles Simms, CEO of Simms Management Corporation and Dayton Foundation endowment fund donor

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