Even though she's not old enough to drive, 10-year-old Mackenzie Mahana said she's pretty awesome at washing cars.
"When people pull away after I'm done, their cars sparkle," said Mackenzie, who lives in Egg Harbor Township near the Hamilton Township border. "They just have to pay me $5."
Although the money is nice and cleaning cars can be kind of fun, especially when it's hot out, Mackenzie said the real motive driving her hard work and hustle is that knowledge that she's doing something good.
Every single penny Mackenzie raises through her summer car washes, goes straight to six local charities: Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, the Atlantic City Humane Society, the Community Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Wildlife Aid Inc. and the Diabetes Foundation.
Mackenzie is one of the 600 children involved in Our Children Making Change, a nonprofit organization empowering children to spend the summer raising money for local charities of their choice.
Our Children Making Change was founded in 2009 by Laura Dulac, a Margate mother of three. In its first summer, OCMC had 100 children members, all from throughout Atlantic County. They raised more than $11,000 for local charities that year. The next summer, the Atlantic County group grew and children from Baltimore joined in, expanding the group to 320 kids, each pledging $100 and raising a total of $33,220 for local charities.
This year, in its third summer, OCMC has grown to include 600 children from four chapters: Atlantic County, Baltimore City, Chester County (Pa.) and Mullica Hill (Harrison Township, Gloucester County), with a summer goal of $60,000, $100 pledged per child.
Dulac said she is confident that the children will reach their goal. Confidant enough even to promise that 100 percent of the pennies earned will going directly to the charities, thanks to generous community sponsors who have helped to balance out any outside costs of OCMC, such as the T-shirts and fundraising supplies.
Dulac formed OCMC after her oldest daughter, Kate, showed a desire to give back, but "wasn't old enough," she said. Laura believes children should be both empowered and able to give back to the less fortunate. Through their leadership and hard work, they may even inspire adults to do the same.
Sitting on the bleachers at the Jack Tighe Baseball Field in Margate, following a OCMC spaghetti-eating contest that raised $185, Kelly Dulac, 5, said she wants to raise money for the less fortunate because some people don't have food at home and that's not fair. One week into the 2011 OCMC summer and Kelly, along with Grace Gaskill and Lucy Green, both 5 and from Margate, have already raised more than $100 by holding a sale of baked goods they helped to make.
On June 20, sisters Georgia and Isabella Turner, of Margate, spearheaded the spaghetti-eating contest, with participants paying $10 to slurp up as much spaghetti as they could, as fast as they could. Other OCMC kids are running lemonade stands, holding yard sales and talent shows, baby sitting, dog walking, singing telegrams and more, all to raise money for charity.
During the Atlantic County/South Jersey OCMC kickoff, held June 12 in Northfield, several of the children stood before their peers to speak about local charities they felt deserving of fundraising assistance.
The kids then voted on six local charities as the focus of their efforts.
Laura Dulac said each summer it seems more kids want to get involved, with new chapters starting up and more money being raised. She is unsure of how far Our Children Making Change will reach in the coming years, but the more change makers, the better, she said.
"If you want to start a chapter, I'll help get it going," Dulac said.
The last chapter to kick off for summer, Mullica Hill, had its event June 30.
All 600 OCMC members are now out in their communities working to raise the $60,000 for those in need.
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