Identical twins Joseph and Michael Mandes, 18, of Brigantine, could fill a room with the awards and medals they've earned throughout the years for their volunteerism.

But the recognition is not their driving force, said the two distinguished finalists for the 2013 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards - the United States' largest youth-recognition program based solely on volunteer service.

Michael received the same award in 2011, Joseph in 2012. This is the first time the two had been given a bronze medal together based on their achievements, they said.

"It feels good to be recognized for it," Michael Mandes said. "It's certainly not the reason I do it."

Michael and his brother agreed that the smiles on the faces of people they help and the variety of people they meet along the way keep them going.

"Interacting with the people, it's a different experience that you wouldn't feel just going out and talking to people," Joseph said.

"I've always loved it, ever since I started," Michael continued.

The twins, who began delving into charitable work by the age of 10 under the direction of their mother, Julie, plan to raise a combined $100,000 by 2014 for their two leading charities: Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and the Kids for South Jersey Cancer Fund - which they co-founded in 2008 after their grandfather passed away from a syndrome, at the time, they believed to be cancer related.

The family has raised more than $34,000 for Alex's Lemonade and nearly $44,000 for the cancer fund, they said.

"As long as people support it and people care about what our goal is, I think we can make it," Michael said, sitting in the living room of their grandparent's Brigantine home, as the two cats they saved from the streets weaved in and out of the room.

During the course of eight years, the twins have created a letter-writing campaign to get the local school districts and Parent Teacher Associations involved to help expand their efforts.

From dress-down days, to coin drops to public appearances, the word has spread.

"They've had so many great experiences through this," Julie Mandes said. "They're so lucky."

Since 2005, the brothers have worked to further develop their good deeds.

Youth Alliance - the group they began in 2008 to help local veterans and community members - was essentially adopted by the Brigantine Elks Lodge in order to form Elk's Antlers Lodge No. 23 in October 2012.

Although Hurricane Sandy created a roadblock for their newest venture, it also helped to generate a service project for the group of 12- to 20-year-olds by way of a collection for storm victims.

The Antlers have succeeded in collecting more than 100 blankets and 50 pounds of hard candy for cancer patients, the family said.

"We hope to make it a yearly collection," Joseph said.

By mid-spring the Mandeses, with the help of the Antlers, also hope to put on the Caring Youth Creating a Loving Environment, or CYCLE, bike-a-thon. The event will raise money for the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, the twins said.

It's in the development stage, promised their mother, but plans are in the works to meet with the city to begin preparations, she said.

Now, with less than four months to go before their Atlantic City High School graduation, the boys have plans to keep up the work they started nearly 10 years ago, even with the distraction of college acceptance letters slowly starting to arrive.

The brothers applied to six schools, all located within two-hours of their hometown. Joseph applied to a seventh, making Princeton University the outlier.

It's unclear at this point whether the twins will separate, but the motivation to keep volunteering certainly still lingers.

"I'm definitely not going to stop," Michael said, his brother agreeing, "no matter what."

Contact Caitlin Honan:

609-272-7227