He’s still in high school but 18-year-old Francis Mancho is already a hero in his community. Francis is in his fourth year of volunteering at Matheny Medical and Educational Center in Peapack, New Jersey, a hospital, school, and home to children and young adults with severe developmental disabilities. Francis requested $3,000 to purchase two touch screen computers to help him teach the youth entrepreneurial skills by selling organic produce to the staff from a community garden that he created last year.
"On May 31st 2010, I started a community garden on a 20 x 15 foot plot at the United Presbyterian Church in Flanders, New Jersey," he wrote in his application. "I asked our pastor and the Church Session for space to create my garden and they approved my project. My parents, sister and cousin helped to dig out the turf from the soccer field during Memorial Day weekend to get the garden started."
This year, Francis increased the size of the garden to 30 x 20 feet and has already planted tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, squash (green and yellow), collard greens, pumpkin, turnip, cabbage, broccoli, parsley, lettuce, basil, thyme, beets, rosemary, cilantro, onions, garlic, carrots, and radishes. They will be sold at a Tea Time Café the students operate twice a week.
The students cannot ring up sales using a cash register because some of them cannot freely use their arms so they rely on teachers to handle a cash register with a keyboard. The new touch screen computers will allow more students to actively participate in the selling and learning process by seeing the items and their prices with one touch. Francis says these computers will also help to improve their cognitive abilities and quality of life. "It was an eye opening experience for me to learn that there are people with serious life long challenges like this in our society," said Francis. Up to 100 students will benefit from his gift.
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Besides being a full time student and summer volunteer, you may be wondering what Francis does in his spare time. For several years, he has participated in various community service projects like organizing a "School Supplies" project with his sister for four years to support local needy families. He also plays football, AAU basketball, track & field, is a camp counselor, and assists the Sunday school teacher. This fall, Francis will start college at La Salle University in Philadelphia. This bright, articulate, and generous young man is already a role model and clearly a leader in the making. His parents must be very proud.
June 16, 2011
I was able to surprise Francis with a phone call to the center thanks to a little help from Volunteer Coordinator, Gail Cunningham. Actually, it was a lot of help. She arranged for a gathering of staff and also family to be there for my call. In the room were Sean Murphy (Vice Principal), Sandy Josephson (Director of Marketing and Public Relations), Kevin Ralph (Chief Development Officer), and Betty Schoonover (Staff Development Trainer). Francis’s parents Maureen and Joseph were also there and when I spoke to them, I detected an unusual accent. When I asked, they told me they are from Cameroon!
Francis was very soft-spoken but as we talked on the speakerphone, I could hear everyone applauding for him. Gail spoke very highly of Francis, saying she has watched him grow over four years and that he comes from a wonderful family. I could tell Francis was smiling when I asked if he had a girlfriend. “Yes,” he said. “Her name is Natalia.” When he starts college this fall, Francis plans to go into the business field. There’s no doubt whatever avenue he takes, his work ethic will take him far.
Congratulations to Francis' parents, Mrs and Mr Maureen and Joseph Mancho for a job well done! firstname.lastname@example.org