Cavanaugh Bell has spent the last two years giving back to his community of Gaithersburg, Maryland, a significant amount of time for anyone, but even more so when you consider his age–which is 7.
You read that right. Bell first began leading a host of care pack initiatives to help the homeless in his community when he was just 5 years old.
Soon after, in response to being bullied and constantly told he was too young to volunteer, he founded the non-profit Cool & Dope Corp (for which he serves as Chief Positivity Creator), which is dedicated to raising awareness and spreading positivity around the world with the mission of eradicating all bullying worldwide by 2030.
But don’t let Bell’s tender age and rock star ambition fool you—Bell will be the first to tell you that youth does not equal naivete. If anything, his age—and his first-hand experience with bullying–has made him more cognizant of others’ suffering.
So, when COVID-19 hit Gaithersburg, it’s no surprise Bell immediately thought of another’s safety—in this case, his 74-year-old grandmother’s, who has asthma. Frightened for his grandmother’s health and to make sure she had what she needed as schools and stores closed, Bell and his mom immediately went to the grocery store to buy supplies.
But then Bell realized: his grandmother, who lives in a senior living center, wasn’t the only one in danger.
“I started asking my mom if we could buy stuff for my grandmother’s friends. And before we knew it, we had two full carts of stuff! And then my mom asked me how we were going to pay for it all.”
In response to his mom’s question, Bell made a choice—a choice that few adults would ever dream of making. He donated his entire life savings of $640, carefully saved over the lengths of several Christmases and birthdays, to buy supplies for his grandmother’s friends and all of the residents in their senior community.
But he didn’t stop there. Mobilizing a small team of kids whom he affectionately refers to as “Positivity Creators,” he created care packs for the senior citizens so they didn’t have to risk being exposed to the coronavirus by going to the store. In less than 3 hours, he and the Positivity Creators created an initial batch of 48 care packs. Then, by securing donations from distributors in his community, he and his team were able to put together an additional 65 care packs – in days – and delivered some 135 hot meals to seniors.
Through word of mouth, Bell found out about The Pollination Project and applied for a grant from TPP’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to expand and support his pantry, which he calls “LOVE Is Greater Than COVID-19.” He was awarded the $1,000 grant this month and already has big plans for how the support can bolster his goals.
“We are trying to serve 1,000 senior citizens in our area, since many grocery stores have not been able to restock and no longer have many of the items that seniors need to stay safe. It is our hope to distribute 200-250 care packs a week and replenish the pantry as needed to be a resource for the community.”
In addition, Bell is working with charitable groups in his area to support those vulnerable citizens who have been unable to secure supplies through other means.
“Most other groups such as So What Else, Inc and the Salvation Army have had to turn hundreds of people away each week as demand for hygiene products and food is quickly outpacing the supply. We are actively working with many of these organizations to collect a list of names of people who they have had to turn away so that we may be able to help them. It is our goal to form a collaboration with existing nonprofits who service seniors as well as partner with local small businesses who want to help our community during this trying time. Our care pack initiative has already been able to lighten the burden that other nonprofits are feeling as families and seniors are requesting more aid. I also have a large volunteer network I can tap into to help make this pantry a success for however long the pandemic lasts.”
Bell is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of his volunteers through rigorous cleaning and distancing protocols and continues to seek out creative community partnerships to best serve the senior citizens:
“To make sure that we keep both volunteers and the public safe, we have partnered with a local basketball gym to use their space to house pantry items, and we’ve partnered with local businesses to donate milk and bread. We got 500 loaves donated over three weekends and we got 63 half gallons of milk donated Easter weekend! My aunt is even helping out by sewing masks with filters for people in the pantry.”
Throughout all of this intense planning and hard work, Bell remains ever optimistic, hopeful, and dedicated to his life’s purpose: “Spreading positivity just makes me feel so beautiful inside.”
The Pollination Project is founded on the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things and that heroes are defined by their actions, not their age. We are so proud to have supported Bell—the youngest grant award recipient in TPP’s history—who has so successfully and ingeniously leveraged his community to support his efforts.
To support Bell, please visit www.coolanddope.com. Bell also encourages people to do something similar in their hometown because, he says, “with love, we will get through this.”