Twelve-year-old Emily Spector of New Albany recently received $1,000 from the Kohl's Cares Scholarship Program for her volunteer activities.
Emily's work involves setting up mini libraries in local food pantries.
"I'm passionate about reading," she said.
When her 16-year-old sister, Julia, started working at a homeless shelter, Emily said, she became aware of food pantries and other ways to help those in need. She said she thought it was a shame that not all children have access to books.
"I researched because I wanted to do something that could help the community," Emily said. "I thought if food pantries could help people fuel the body, having literature there could help fuel the mind."
She started the Read to Succeed Foundation and has collected 3,000 books to donate.
Emily said she started collecting books from friends and family, from her synagogue and from classmates at New Albany Middle School, where she will enter seventh grade in the fall.
Emily stores the books in her basement. She said it is "fun having all this great literature in my basement."
She distributes the books to food banks through local church congregations in Columbus, the Lutheran Social Services of Franklin County and the Village Coalition Against Hunger in New Albany.
She said she enjoys visiting the pantries and seeing children reading the books.
Emily said she dedicated the project to her late aunt, Allison Kallenerg, whom she said wanted children to have "lots of books so they would have the knowledge of the world."
Emily's mother, Lisa Spector, nominated her for the Kohl's award, unbeknownst to Emily.
Emily was one of two central Ohio students to receive the scholarship. The other requested anonymity, said Kohl's spokeswoman Robyn Swernoff.
Swernoff said since the program began in 2001, Kohl's has awarded more than 22,000 children more than $4.3 million in scholarships and prizes.
Students are nominated by an adult and scholarship recipients are chosen "based on initiative, leadership, generosity and project benefits and outcome," she said.
Emily is a regional-level winner who now will be entered to receive one of 10 national scholarships that will be awarded this month.
National winners receive a total of $10,000 in scholarships, and Kohl's donates $1,000 to a nonprofit organization on each national winner's behalf, Swernoff said.
Emily said she's not sure what she wants to do when she graduates from high school, but said she has a passion for education and is interested in becoming a superintendent so she can help improve education.
She said she will use the scholarship money to help pay for college.
Anyone interested in donating books to the Read to Succeed Foundation can contact Emily at email@example.com or Emily's mother at firstname.lastname@example.org.