One good deed deserves another.
This is the motto of Arlene Lopez and it is the inspiration behind “Useful heartz”, a youth action project that she created in Pomona to help people in need.
The 14-year-old launched Helpful Heartz in January to highlight community service and inspire others to give back. To date, with the support of his parents, the ninth grade student has participated in over 50 events and projects to support those in need – from bake sales to clothing drives and food deliveries to outreach. homeless people.
But Arlene’s efforts to help others began several years ago when she led a canning drive in sixth grade. Following the success of the campaign, she and her classmates received a Social Justice Service Award, which she said “planted a seed” in her to help those less fortunate.
âIt feels good to see that you are making a difference in people’s lives,â said Arlene. “It’s pretty cool, honestly.”
Most days of the week you can find Arlene and her 13-year-old brother, Javier Lopez, cycling through town making home deliveries as part of God’s Pantry food distribution service. On weekends, they take another ride with Food Cycle Collective, a group run by volunteers that collects food waste from households and businesses for composting and provides meals, clothing and hygiene products to those in need.
âWe’re always trying to see who else might need a little extra helping hand,â said Arlene.
Even with all of her volunteer time, Arlene still has time for her friends at Diamond Ranch High School, to watch TikTok videos and TV. But after being diagnosed with epilepsy in 2020, she had to give up one of her favorite hobbies – playing softball.
âI stopped playing, but it was time to understand my body better,â she said. âDuring this time, I realized that I had an even greater interest in helping others. “
His brother Javier said he found inspiration in the fact that his sister was able to overcome her diagnosis. Last year, he joined her in various community outreach events, which he attributes to her becoming more social.
“She is an inspiration to all of us,” he said. âEven though it’s the older sister, I admire her. “
With Helpful Heartz, Arlene has become a welcome presence in the Pomona community, said City Councilor Victor Preciado. Having joined Arlene on numerous food deliveries, Preciado said the town was grateful to have someone like her.
âWhen you ask young people to get involved in the community, she is the perfect example,â said Preciado. âShe is a great leader now and will be in the future. “
Arlene already has big plans for 2022. Her first project will be a fundraiser to raise money for tarpaulins and bicycle parts that will go to the homeless community of Pomona, she said.
And although the plans are not yet final, she said she hopes to host a community event to raise awareness of children with epilepsy.
âI want to help in different ways, but this time for kids like me,â she said. âIt would go a long way. “
With the intention of one day going to college, Arlene has already set her sights on UCLA. There, she hopes to get a medical degree which she says will be used to continue helping others.