Meet Francis Mancho from Budd Lake, NJ
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.
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.
Diary Starts Here
September 25, 2013
Francis emailed us an update...
"I am writing to provide you an update on the progress of the Matheny garden project. The project has been a major success, and I have learned a lot about gardening and growing simple vegetables for the past 4 years. It is very rewarding to see Matheny students smile at us as we do work in the garden and to see them use the vegetables in cooking classes and in the farmers market. I have also introduced my friends to the project. The Nestle Very Best In Youth Foundation gave us a grant of $1000 in Dec 2012 to support the garden project. Thank you for providing the money and support to get this project started in 2011."
June 28, 2012
Francis emailed us an update...
"I am writing to provide you with an update on the project. In April 2012, my family started a garden at the Matheny Center. I have attached a file that shows pictures from our garden activities at Matheny Center.
All this was made possible by the computers that you donated to Matheny so we are very grateful for your help and we wanted to keep you informed about the progress of our project.
By the way, I survived my first year at LaSalle University. I continue to volunteer at Matheny Center during this summer and I am taking a finance class at Drew University, Madison NJ.
Thank you again for your support that motivated us to do more for the Matheny Center."
September 22, 2011
Francis put together a great slideshow which documents his project from start to finish...
September 14, 2011
Matheny's Coordinator of Volunteer Services, Gail Cunningham, emailed us another update...
"We received the rest of the computer equipment and here are some photos of the computers in operation. I'll send some additional photos soon. Gail"
July 18, 2011
Gail Cunningham, Coordinator of Volunteer Services at Matheny, sent us an update...
"The order that we placed for the software for the TouchSmart computer has been received. Alex Frauman, the Matheny School's IT coordinator, has the software safely locked away in his office. I've attached a few photos. I'll update you as soon as we receive the computer, keyboard, etc. Thanks again. Gail"
July 14, 2011
It's not often I get to meet one of our Heroes so today was a special day. Francis was in Los Angeles this week visiting his family so Damon and I met him at The Counter for a burger lunch. I recognized him right away because he looks exactly like his picture.
His aunt Florence joined us and we all looked at a beautiful album that Francis put together and gave to me along with a personal thank you letter for the computers. Lunch was fun. He and his aunt ordered the same thing I did - bison burgers. Francis is just as nice in person as he was on the phone and it was great to get to know him a little better. He's heading off to college in the fall to study business and I told him we would be asking about his grades later this year. We also found out he likes to shop and they were going shopping tonight for new shoes. Florence said if he won an online chess game, he would get new shoes. He won... so after lunch, they went shopping. I'm curious to see what the future holds for this bright young man.
July 12, 2011
Francis sent us more photos documenting the progress of his project...
"Here is a brief update about my project at Matheny. I have included pictures of the first vegetables that I harvested and delivered to Matheny on June 28. Matheny has placed orders for the computers and software. I will send you my next update once we receive the computers and we start using them. Sincerely, Francis Mancho"
June 23, 2011
Francis sent us an update on his computer order, and also forwarded a series of photos showing the progress of his garden...
"Final exams and graduation are finally over. Alex from Matheny sent the computer specifications over to Damon, so he can order them. We are excited about that. I have attached some pictures showing the progress of this year’s garden. Once we receive the computers I will let know you know how things progress at Matheny. Thank you so much for your kindness. Best regards, Francis Mancho"
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.
06/16/11: Jenny wrote... "Francis, I’m so impressed with how much you are doing in your community. You are a role model and a hero."
06/16/11: Damon wrote... "Francis, Congratulations on your grant, and on your upcoming high school graduation! Thanks for everything you do to help others."
06/17/11: Emmanuel Abongwa wrote... "Hey Francis: Little did I know that my God-son would become a hero in his community. Congrats and continue the good work."
06/23/11: Gertrude Nkie Atabong wrote... "Hi Francis, I’m very impressed with your development and promoting your culture. May God continue to bless you and give you more knowledge. I’m Gertrude, a Cameroonian living in DC."
08/04/11: Aunty Ngum wrote... "My dear Papi, I am so proud of the man you have become. How time flies and I am impressed of how responsible you are. May God continue to bless you in all your endeavors. Love, Aunty Ngum."