Every year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Orange County Chapter bestows nine Outstanding Awards for Philanthropy to recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations whose philanthropic work has extraordinarily impacted the local community. Vanis is one of 2016's nine esteemed honorees.
At age 13, Vanis exudes a wisdom, activist spirit, and heart for the environment and philanthropy that extend well beyond his years. Our favorite corporate partner, he has been mobilizing his recycling company, My ReCycler, to support our mission since age 8.
When we revealed this highly regarded honor to him, he responded with more news of his enduring support: his aunt and uncle recently rallied their "Young Women's Camp" church service project to handcraft and donate 16 blankets for the children we serve, as well as collect three large bags of recyclables. Vanis and his family never cease to amaze us!
Vanis will be honored at a special luncheon at City National Grove of Anaheim on Thursday, November 17—just two days after National Philanthropy Day.
Want to get even more inspired? Read Vanis' nomination below.
Do you remember what you were doing at age 13? What about age 7?
Vanis Buckholz, now 13, launched his own recycling business (myrecycler.org) at age 7 in Corona del Mar, and over the past few years has recycled nearly 100,000 pounds and donated more than $5,000 to his favorite local charity, Costa Mesa-based Project Hope Alliance.
After first learning of the importance of recycling on Earth Day at Harbor View Elementary School, the then first grader took notice of how many reusables were tossed into the trash every day, and he took action. At first he gathered recyclables at home, then from other family members and friends, and then from neighbors. He called his business "My ReCycler," and news outlets called him "one of the nation's youngest eco-entrepreneurs."
Before My ReCycler was even born, Vanis' parents instilled a love and respect for the environment in their son, values that swelled into his ever-expanding business. As his passion grew, Vanis took to riding his scooter around town, scooping up trash from beaches, streets, and parks, then hauling it home to recycle. His scooter was later replaced with a bicycle and trailer, and nowadays his trips to OC Recycler in Santa Ana are by the truckload. He sorts and recycles glass, plastic, aluminum, and loose paper. Supporters travel from as far as Hollywood and San Juan Capistrano to gift the recycling mogul their recyclables. Talk about inspiring local change and action!
In addition to nurturing the environment, Vanis aimed to give back to his community. When he turned 8, his mother taught him about charities and the importance of serving others. During an online search, they found Project Hope Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of homelessness in Orange County, one child at a time. The following day his parents caught more wind of the organization on TV. It was deemed a sign, and Vanis decided to donate 25 percent of his recycling profits to the charity. His compassion for the children served by the nonprofit is astounding and far beyond his years.
By 2013, Vanis had donated enough to move an Orange County family out of homelessness and into permanent housing.
The charitable benefactor ensures that his customers are well-informed of not only his mission, but Project Hope Alliance's too. Somewhere between school, recycling, playing basketball for his school team and on a traveling team, playing football, running track, go-kart racing, surfing, skateboarding, and just being a teenager, Vanis makes time to promote My ReCycler and Project Hope Alliance via word of mouth, social media, and flyers.
Project Hope Alliance is amazed, humbled, and inspired by Vanis' continued contributions and support, actions which also inspire the children and families served by the organization and other members of the community.
Vanis' noble efforts have hardly gone unrecognized, having been lauded by both local and national government officials. In February 2013, former President George H. W. Bush awarded 10-year-old Vanis with the national Point of Light Award. The distinction described him as a young man who "personifies hope in action." In January 2013, while introducing Vanis before the Newport Beach City Council, Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry said of the self-starter: "Newport Beach is the home of some great entrepreneurs. The one tonight is particularly young, but I think is a very outstanding entrepreneur." At the time, Vanis was the youngest person to ever speak in front of the Newport Beach City Council.
My ReCycler has blossomed dozens of corporate customers and numerous partnerships throughout the county, including the Newport Beach Environmental Nature Center; Newport Coast Community Center; John Wayne Cancer Foundation; ThinkinBig Communications; The Oasis Senior Center; the local Corona del Mar post office; Young Seconds; Sofa U Love; local gas stations, fitness, and community centers; and more.
Vanis' work has even traveled up the coast, garnering praise and sponsorship by Indosole, a San Francisco-based Certified B Corporation that repurposes indestructible salvaged tires into the soles of durable, fashionable, and functional footwear. The company runs a local showroom in San Clemente.
The phrase, "It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it," shines as Vanis' motto. The local community has reacted in an overwhelmingly positive way to that someone, exclaiming, "You're the recycler!" when they see him, and embracing him with hugs.
Vanis is truly an Outstanding Youth here in Orange County, and we are extraordinarily lucky to have him.