Josephine Grant never knows what she'll find at her doorstep when she comes home. The biggest surprise came when she returned from school one day last spring to a stack of 10 enormous cardboard boxes, each containing dozens of baby bottles.
No one in her family could use them. But nearby, there was a great need for the bottles, and Grant knew what to do.
This "hobby" of Grant's started when she was 13.
"My little cousin was born with Goldenhar syndrome, was always in and out of the hospital, and never had anything to do while in there," she said. Goldenhar is a rare condition, present at birth, that results in abnormal development of the eyes, ears and spine, according to the National Institutes of Health.
That inspired Grant to launch a project she dubbed Josie's Smiles for Pediatrics. Five years later, the 18-year-old from Taneytown has collected countless donations and raised more than $30,000 to purchase toys, books and other items to be used by infants and children during hospital stays at Carroll Hospital Center and the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
Grant's good works recently earned her a $1,000 college scholarship from the Kohl's Cares Scholarship Program, which annually honors nearly 200 volunteers from among 35,000 nominees nationwide. Grant was one of three students from the Baltimore area to receive such a scholarship this year. It's an acknowledgment of her efforts, but she probably would have given freely of her time regardless.
"She always wanted to volunteer, since before she was 10," said Carol Grant, Josephine Grant's mother, who initially told her daughter she was too young for such work.
Eventually Grant wore her mother down. By the time she was 11, she had received her parents' permission to contact the activity coordinator at Lorien Taneytown, a nursing home and rehabilitation center. The facility made an exception, allowing the 11-year-old to volunteer with the residents despite her youth.
Soon, Grant was assisting elderly people at Lorien in their weekly bingo games. Her foray into community service had begun.
Grant launched Josie's Smiles for Pediatrics shortly thereafter. After meeting with administrators from Carroll Hospital Center and getting approval, she started the project with her own money — about $75 she had saved. She sought donations from local businesses. When Carroll Hospital Center lost its funding to provide new mothers with bottles and infant blankets, Grant expanded her effort by doing research and contacting national companies that might be willing to make donations to fill the gap. It wasn't long before boxes of baby bottles, pacifiers and blankets began showing up on Grant's doorstep.
The teen's community service proved contagious at Francis Scott Key High School. As a leading member of the Key Club, the Kiwanis International program for high school students, Grant got other students involved in her efforts to collect donations for local pediatric patients. While other high school students dove into sports or other extracurricular activities, Grant, who graduated in June, spent much of her free time during high school engaged in community service.
"She's very self-motivated. It's in her blood," her mother said.
Amy Zepp, annual fund manager for the Carroll Hospital Center Foundation who has worked with Grant for the past five years, agrees. "She is extremely dedicated and shows extreme passion for everything she does. She demonstrates components of a leader far beyond her years," Zepp said.
As Grant heads to Shenandoah University this fall to study nursing, she looks forward to preparing for a career in neonatal nursing, a profession that will allow her to continue doing what she most enjoys.
"I've always loved helping others and seeing the smile it brings to people's faces," Grant said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun