There’s only one thing that senior Dema Fawaz enjoys more than reading, and that’s helping others.
But recently, the 17-year-old got the chance to honor both passions with a fundraiser she initiated for Oakwood’s Center for Exceptional Families.
At her mother’s suggestion, Fawaz went to the CEF to explore volunteer opportunities. But she found a much greater calling during her visit.
“I went there and loved it and the atmosphere and the staff were so friendly,” she said. “But I walked by the library and saw that they had no books, and I thought, ‘Something needs to be done about this.’”
She and her sister Lara started by emptying their own bookshelves, picking out favorites they wanted to share with the youth at the center, which serves children with disabilities and their families.
Next, the teens began asking for donations at school, where Dema is part of the Key Club, as well as through the Dearborn nonprofit the , which the Fawaz family is involved with.
With around 500 books collected, the sisters organized and labeled the books themselves, as well as asked the foundation to donate bookshelves.
Leila Fawaz, chairwoman of the foundation, said the decision was an easy one.
“We thought it was a good idea,” she said. “A good way to support the community.”
CEF Manager Tammy Morris said she was blown away by the effort.
“I was so impressed with these young ladies,” she said. “At a time when one feels like you have to hit a teenager over the head to get their attention, we didn't ask for anything from these girls; they just saw a need and quietly worked through how to solve it for our patients.”
Fawaz, who plans to study to become a surgeon, says she hopes the project will grow–beyond the CEF, beyond Oakwood, and beyond Dearborn. She is already working with friends at the University of Michigan to organize a similar drive in Ann Arbor.
She credits her mother for instilling in her and her sister the drive to give back to their community.
“(Our mom) basically said to us that if you go through life just taking instead of giving, you’re never going to truly appreciate it,” Fawaz explained.
And with many children at the center now enjoying their new books, Fawaz has a lot to appreciate.
Anyone interested in donating books to the drive can drop off the new or gently used children’s books at the Sadr Foundation office at 5601 Schaefer Road in Dearborn, or call the Center for Exceptional Families at 313-996-1960.
Since being published, this story was picked up and posted to the Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day.