As a parent to three boys living in Marin County, Calif., nothing is more important to Kala Shah than raising kind, grateful, compassionate and giving kids. After leaving her fancy job at a San Francisco foundation, she grappled with how to impart these core values to her children in an authentic and organic way. She knew that to be truly impactful, any effort would have to involve their peers and the community.
A fateful meeting at a LinkedIn networking event in Spring 2012 brought her together with Toan Lam, founder of Go Inspire Go, who was looking for a way to reach youth with his message of “find your power to help others” by telling inspiring stories of everyday heroes serving their community. They joined forces to create Community Heroes at Kala’s kids’ elementary school (Sun Valley in San Rafael) — a fun, school lunchtime program that sparks youth to build empathy using inspirational videos, an open forum to discuss and act on real-world issues, with parents helping to facilitate service projects based on student interests.
After the opening kickoff assembly with the whole school, Kala didn’t know if anyone would willingly give up their lunch hour to talk about how they could help others. But then… POW! 50+ kids showed up at the first meeting with lunch pails in tow, eager to activate their power to serve their community.
The impact of this forum has been profound and sustained over 4+ years, and the Community Heroes enthusiasm has proven to be infectious. In hearing about Sun Valley’s Community Heroes program, other parents in Marin (and beyond) have approached Kala to replicate the program at their schools.
Community Heroes is now active in four Marin elementary schools, with many other schools lining up to join this homegrown movement to build kindness, compassion and action!
Program progression and major milestones
- Fall 2012: Started 1st Community Heroes club at Sun Valley School in San Rafael (SRCS) with 30-40 kids regularly attending weekly meetings and many more participating in service projects throughout the year.
- Fall 2012: Received $300 start-up grant through Hasbro/Generation On
- December 2013: Received LinkedIn for Good Innovation grant for $10,000 to help scale and replicate pilot program, Press
- March 2014: First Day of Giving with 120 participants, 4 projects, Press
- Spring 2014: Received $1,500 Bread for the Journey grant and $2,500 Marin County Community Services grant
- 2nd school: Kent Middle School (Kentfield SD) participated 2014-15 school year
- 3rd school: Dixie Elementary (Dixie district) kicked off Fall 2014
- Fall 2014: Received $2,000 Marin County Community Services grant
- 4th school: Mary Silveira Elementary (DIxie) kicked off January 2015
- March 2015: 2nd Annual Day of Giving with 4 participating schools
- 5th school: Vallecito Elementary (Dixie) joined Sept 2015
- Fall 2015: Pilot program impact study completed by Harvard-educated researcher
- December 2015: Nominated for Heart of Marin Award (Innovation) by Homeward Bound of Marin
- Winter 2016: Received $5,000 Marin County Community Services grant
- March 2016: 3rd Annual Day of Giving hosted by Marin County Office of Education (250 participants, 4 schools, 9 service projects) Press
- July 2016: Community Heroes establishes 501c3 status and forms its own Board of Directors (previously a program of Go inspire Go)
- Fall 2016: Awarded $2,000 grant from Marin County Community Services
- 6th school: Rancho Elementary (Novato) to be kicked off November 2016
- February 2017: First Community Heroes fundraiser in partnership with Love at Second Sight
- 4th Annual Day of Giving, hosted/co-sponsored by MCOE, March 5th, 2017, 300+ participants from 14 schools in attendance
- June 2017: Nominated for North Bay Leadership Council “Leaders of the North Bay” awards, Top 3 finalist
- Community Heroes has presented to about 5,000 students in Marin. Four schools actively participating (Sun Valley, Dixie, Mary Silveira, Vallecito Elementaries). Also tested at Rancho Elementary, Kent Middle School and presented to Mill Valley MS, Terra Linda HS
- Hundreds of students actively attend CH meetings
- Annual Day of Giving (DOG) event has drawn more than 1,000 participants since inception in 2014.
- More than 35 local/global organizations served through Community Heroes projects