Alvaro Galan of Larchmont got hooked on community service as a 14-year-old when he traveled to New Orleans
to help clean up the devastated Lower Ninth Ward in the summer of 2007.
Staying in an empty, ruined warehouse with 50 others, the youngest volunteer on the team, he gutted houses, mowed lawns and helped feed community members in 102 degree heat. Overwhelmed by the debris and confusion he saw in the Lower Ninth, he was nevertheless deeply touched by the beautiful smiles of grateful residents and the feeling of happiness that came from knowing that everyone was working together to save the community.
“I knew that I had to do more and keep going back,” he said. Alvaro returned to New Orleans in the summers of 2008 and 2009 and in the spring of 2010, recruiting and organizing a total of 71 other teens to come with him to help rebuild homes.
In 2009, Alvaro co-founded The NOLA Tree, an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that connects teen volunteers with community development projects in New Orleans and New York City. NOLA stands for New Orleans Louisiana. Now a high school senior, Alvaro received the Rotary Club of Larchmont’s Blum Award on December 17, 2010 at the Larchmont Yacht Club. The Blum Award recognizes Mamaroneck High School students for their initiative, leadership and creative pursuit of making a difference in their local community and beyond. It came with a check for $250.
The Blum Award was established in 1985 by the Rotary Club of Larchmont and Helene J. Blum, widow of Max J. Blum, to continue Mr. Blum’s keen interest in the youth in his community. The award was presented to this year’s winner by Edward Merians, grandson of Helene Blum, and Chairman of the American Red Cross’ Westchester County Chapter.
“We were looking for a teen who demonstrated effectiveness, creativity, and the ability to gather support,” said Rotary Club of Larchmont President Marilyn Masiero. “We never expected to find someone with Alvaro’s passion, leadership and achievements at such a young age.”
Alvaro was recently accepted to Cornell University. He plans to remain active in The NOLA Tree – he is a member of its Board of Directors –and intends to recruit Cornell students to get involved in The NOLA Tree projects.
Rotary Club of Larchmont is the local club of Rotary International, a worldwide service organization whose motto is to provide “Service above Self” in the form of local, national and international initiatives. The “End Polio Now” campaign has been particularly successful, providing millions of immunizations worldwide. The Club meets every Friday at the Larchmont Yacht Club. Interested parties and guests are welcome. Contact Marilyn Masiero, 914-834-3101.
For more information about The Nola Tree, please visit www.thenolatree.org.
—Submitted by Ann Lobue