May 24, 2017
MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Renee Runge, 18
Conversations with friends who needed community service hours but didn’t know where or how to find them led high school senior Renee Runge to create a database with hundreds of online opportunities at their fingertips. In recognition of her innovative thinking, Runge was selected the Palm Beach County School District’s 2016–17 Outstanding Student Volunteer of the Year.
Runge also was honored before the Florida Cabinet by Gov. Rick Scott, where she was presented with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award, according to the school district’s website.
The 18-year-old, a senior at Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach, said she didn’t understand why her friends were having such a hard time finding places to volunteer.
“When I was a freshman in high school, a lot of my friends were talking about how difficult it was to find community service opportunities,” she said. “And so I started doing research.”
Runge found hundreds of online resources and, to make the process for finding community service hours easier, she created the Community Angel Network (CAN).
“It’s an online directory of over 200 nonprofit organizations in Palm Beach County that are in need of volunteers and services,” she said. “My website is organized by categories. For instance, if someone was interested in volunteer opportunities related to children, they would be able to search for them in the children’s category.”
Students can visit www.pbccan.org or text code word PBCCAN at 41411, Runge said. “Most recently, I’ve developed a text service that enables students to register in order to receive (the most current updates) when community service opportunities become available,” she said.
Anyone can access the text and website services but they are mostly geared toward helping students complete their community service requirements.
Runge had already met these requirements in middle school, earning over 1,000 community service hours by volunteering at her old elementary school before classes and after school assisting the younger students with various activities.
“There is a time delay between the start of the day of the middle school and elementary school,” she said. “So I used the extra hours to go over to my old elementary school to help my kindergarten teacher with her students. I would sit with them and read to them and help them edit their journals.”
Runge, lives in Jupiter with parents Rae and Paul Runge and younger sister Marissa. She said she plans to attend college after graduating and major in English. and eventually write grants for other nonprofits, which is how she funded her own.
“It means a lot to me that I am very fortunate to have all that I have in my life,” she said. “And if there is any way possible for me to help someone else’s life to be a little better, then that to me is a huge victory.”
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