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2021 Amazing Kids honoree Maggie Bao finds new ways to help her community during pandemic.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Maggie Bao, 16, holds her second President's Volunteer Service award. Bao earned the award in 2020 after 135 hours of service that year.For Sunset High School student Maggie Bao, the coronavirus pandemic didn't impact her passion for volunteering in the community.

Bao, 16, started baking at home during stay-at-home orders last spring, and later, co-founded a club that cooks, delivers and serves food to the Transition Projects — an organization helping people transition from homelessness to housing. The group also delivers food to a local women and children's shelter.

Bao started the club with her friend, Audrey Zhao, and they now have 10 people who are part of the group.

"During quarantine, I kind of just had the idea to basically take what we're doing every month at church and realizing we could actually just make this stuff ourselves at home and go to a shelter," she said.

Bao has been volunteering at Bethany Presbyterian Church for five years. At the church, she cooked and served food to homeless people, including veterans.

She said the experience lifted her spirits and made a positive impact on her day.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Maggie Bao"Volunteering has been really rewarding because into high school, I wasn't really comfortable interacting with people I didn't know," Bao said. "These experiences often seem to grow and improve my communication skills, and (help me be) comfortable learning about what's going on in the community."

She added, "I get a unique understanding of the issues that surround my community and the world today, and I also feel a greater urgency to tackle these problems and contribute further to the community."

Previously, Bao volunteered at the Oregon Zoo, but when she was unable to do so due to COVID-19, she was determined to continue helping animals.

To continue her work with animals in the community, Bao began to foster cats at her home. Last year, she helped nine cats from a local animal shelter find their forever home.

The Sunset High School student also teaches weekly Zoom classes to help fourth and sixth graders prepare for math competitions.

Bao's mother, Lin Ma, said she's proud of what her daughter has done to help her community during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Although the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the ways in which one could volunteer, Maggie emphasizes that there are still many other volunteer opportunities in the community," said Ma, who nominated her daughter as Beaverton's Amazing Kid.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - As part of the President's Volunteer Service award, a gold medal is awarded to the recipient. Maggie Bao has received the award two years in a row.Ma is also proud of her daughter for another reason. Bao has received the President's Volunteer Service award two years in a row. The award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities and inspires people around them to volunteer, too.

The honor is also based on volunteer hours in the community.

In Bao's age category, she earned the gold award with 185 hours of service in 2019 and 135 hours of service in 2020.

"I was pretty surprised," Bao said of receiving the first award. "I thought of volunteering as something that I just like to do."

As for the second time around, she said the award felt "different" because of the chaos surrounding the pandemic last year.

Bao took on an internship as a content writer with Techie Youth last summer, a nonprofit organization that helps foster children and at-risk youth become self-sufficient IT and tech professionals.

"I curated content for these kids in New York to follow," Bao said. "A specific area that I focused on was how to create and sell your own digital goods. … For example, how to create and sell your own Snapchat lenses."

Whether it be volunteering at church or helping nonprofits across the country, Bao hopes to continue her volunteer efforts in the community during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in our 2021 Amazing Kids special publication, inserted into newspapers the week of May 24, 2021. Find a digital version of the full publication on our website. This profile of Maggie Bao is sponsored by Reser's Fine Foods.

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