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Finding Hope by Helping Out

Theo Austell ’24 is lending a helping hand—he’s just not sure who his hand is reaching. He’s okay with that.

“It feels weird not being able to see where all of my hard work is going, but I understand it’s better if I don’t go out and do it,” he said. “It feels strange, but I know it’s for a good cause that I’m staying in.”

Theo is reaching out (by staying in) by working with Cornerstones, a Virginia-based nonprofit that provides support for people in need, in two ways: The first is packing “Hunger Halting Hero” kits, which contain nonperishable items like canned goods, rice, and peanut butter; Theo packs around four in an hour. They’re then distributed to area residents facing food insecurity.

The second way Theo is helping is through a new Cornerstones program, in which older kids choose books for a variety of age groups and record themselves reading. The videos are then posted on the organization’s YouTube channel, where they’re available for on-demand viewing. The books may be educational, but don’t have to be; Theo has chosen books on science, math, and—for a little fun—books from the “Junie B. Jones” series.

Both programs, Theo says, makes him feel that he’s still part of the world outside his house—a world that still needs help.

“Everyone needs a little help these days,” he said. “Even if you feel helpless, there’s always something that you can do. If you have connections anywhere, just ask ‘is there any way that I can help?’ And if so, do everything that you can—and then what you can’t, leave for someone else to do. But try to be as helpful as you can. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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