Between school and college applications, one high school senior in Pittsburgh is busier than ever these days. Katie Keim has just set up a new non-profit organization to assist dozens of foster children in the United States and around the world – from as far away as Israel and Greece.
The 18-year-old Greek American senior hosted a network event at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh to kick-off her new and inspiring initiative.
“We had about 75 people attend the event and we raised around $3,000 and are still receiving checks in the mail I expect to make it to $5,000,” she says. “I received a ton of positive feedback from everyone who attended. People were coming up to me after congratulating me on my speech and all the hard work that I have done. People also offered to be on my advisory board of directors and my friends asked me to develop a teenage board of directors and I am in the process of doing that.”
It all started earlier this year when Keim was assigned her senior project – a capstone experience for high school seniors that is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate all they have learned in four years of high school and to challenge their abilities and stretch their limitations.
Keim’s decision to launch A Dozen at a Time was a no-brainer.
“Growing up, I was always a kid who liked to travel and do something for other kids – I was always volunteering,” she says. “I grew up loving children.”
Keim credits Classrooms Without Borders, a non-profit educational organization, for her inspiration to launch her own organization. Through a service program offered by Classrooms Without Borders, she has had the opportunity to volunteer (four times so far) in a special communal environment known as a Children’s Village that assists underprivileged youth in Israel who live in the framework of large adoptive families.
While living and volunteering in the community, Keim worked together with her Israeli peers – Israeli kids who have been placed in foster homes, which are like normal functioning nuclear families. The family group is run by a married couple residing in a home with their own children and a dozen other children from the village. Her “job” as a volunteer was to give valuable help and support in after-school activities.
“I was assigned to the Cohen family, which has eight boys and five girls,” said Keim. “This is what got me started. After going to the village and seeing how happy these children were – I was aware they were abused and some had been homeless. But what was a real eye opener for me was to see these children, even at such young age, thankful for everything that they have.
“Since I came back, I knew I wanted to do more,” she adds. “I have been fortunate enough to go four times and I’m going back again during March break.”
Her idea to launch her own organization stems from her realization about how successful these group homes are compared to foster care in the United States. “After doing a lot of research, I decided that I wanted to help these types of villages all around the world. And of course being Greek, I want to help the villages [SOS Children’s Villages] in Greece. And, of course, in the United States – there are two. One is in Chicago and the other is in Florida.”
Through A Dozen at a Time, Keim is planning to hold various fundraising events – from car washes to bake sales – in order to assist the villages in the United States and the one in Greece, which she is planning to visit in the summer.
And, of course, she is continuing to fundraise for Israel ahead of her fifth visit with the Cohen family.
Keim’s dream is to one day open her own Children’s Village in the United States.