Reneisha Wilkes, an Online and Professional Studies student at California Baptist University, recently received $10,000 and the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“Bless others and you will in turn live a blessed life,” Wilkes said. “I truly believe that and am a testament.”
The recognition marks the second time Wilkes has been awarded as a volunteer. In 2010, she was recognized by DeGeneres as the show’s first Volunteer of the Month.
Since she was 7 years old, Wilkes has had a passion for serving others. As a girl, she assisted her grandparents in helping people with small favors around their apartment complex.
Wilkes created her first website at 14 years old. The non-profit website, someonehelpedme.org, was devoted to serving others, but eventually was shut down due to lack of funding.
However, Wilkes did not allow this to slow her down.
After receiving letters from veterans and elderly citizens regarding needs for reliable transportation, Wilkes took it upon herself to drive those in need to and from their destinations.
“I wouldn’t want my grandmother walking in extreme temperatures to get to and from her doctor’s appointment, or to the grocery store,” Wilkes said. “I also don’t think that it is right for veterans, some of whom are injured and have served our country, to have to struggle to get rides.”
In time, after asking others for the much-needed resources to continue to be a volunteer, Wilkes’ website was once again up and running.
Someonehelpedmehelps.wordpress.com still remains completely non-profit.
When Wilkes was 25 years old, DeGeneres took notice of the CBU student’s actions and invited her to be on the show.
“Ellen motivated me to help others and give back, and I consider her my role model,” Wilkes said.
During Wilkes’ first appearance on the show, DeGeneres commended her, saying, “You have done more community service than anyone under the age of 25 in Southern California.”
Wilkes’ first award of $10,000 was used to fund her education, her church, and to provide Christmas gifts for underprivileged children.
With an upcoming wedding in March, she and her fiance have used the recent gift to help pay for the ceremony, in addition to donating toys to a local charity.
A true manifestation of the hands and feet of Jesus, she intends to keep her website operating as long as possible.
“My hopes are to have my children continue work with the site as they get older as well,” she said.
Wilkes encourages anyone with an inclination to serve others to do so.
“Helping others isn’t always about donating money or goods,” she said. “Sometimes, words of wisdom can change someone’s life for the greater good.”