Hometown Helpers: Janna Zilkha, Bottles for Buddies

This week’s Hometown Helper is Janna Zilkha, a 17-year-old student at Half Hollow Hills High School East who combines recycling with charity through her Bottles for Buddies program.

The project:

In 2013, I started a recycling program called “Bottles For Buddies”. The premise was simple: collect and redeem as many bottles as possible and donate all the proceeds to The NY Friendship Circle (FCNY), a local non-profit special needs organization. I chose FCNY because my cousin, Roi, who lived with my family for three years, is on the autism spectrum and the support he received from FCNY was priceless. Now in its sixth academic year, my recycling program has become bigger than I ever imagined. I went from barely redeeming 2,000 bottles my first year, to redeeming over 30,000 bottles last year after I created a public Facebook page and gave presentations at different local organizations. With over 70,000 bottles redeemed to date, Bottles for Buddies is proof that the idea of one 11 year old girl can have far-reaching positive effects.

What is the Coca Cola Scholars Program, and what does being a semi-finalist mean to you?:

This is from the official website: “The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to graduating high school seniors. Students are recognized for their capacity to lead and serve, as well as their commitment to making a significant impact on their schools and communities.”

Being a semi-finalist is an honor because nearly 97,000 applications were submitted, and less than 2,000 were chosen as semi-finalists.

Are you involved with any additional volunteering?:

I’m involved with Huntington’s Helping Hands Rescue Mission, Organic Garden Initiative. I create and cultivate fruits, vegetables, herbs, and produce to donate to local food pantry. I’ve provided enough food for over 200 town members in need.

I’m also involved with Dix Hills’ Friendship Circle Chai Center, Teen Scene Program. Using money raised from Bottles for Buddies, I created and led craft and music programs for teens with special needs.

Are there any links or information we should give people if they want to get involved or know more?

For more information, see Bottles for Buddies’ Facebook Page.

This article is part of a continuing series of stories about those who volunteer their time to make Huntington a better place to live.

Hometown Helpers: David Altman, The Huntington Townwide Fund

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