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CSA Finalist: Lauren Presley

Bentonville teen gives back to her community by helping build homes with Habitat for Humanity.
Three Arkansas families have a new lease on life all thanks to the hard work and dedication of a northwest Arkansas teenager.

"To get out there and see whenever you just start building the walls and then going to the home dedication at the end, says Lauren Presley. "It's an indescribable kind of feeling."

Three years ago, Lauren Presley didn't know the difference between a ratchet and a wrench and had probably never picked up a power tool.

"We just got out there and they gave us some hammers and some tool belts and walked us through it," says Presley.

But what she lacked in craftsmanship, this now college freshman, more than made up for in heart and dedication. Lauren first got involved with Habitat for Humanity as a high school sophomore. She showed up at the Bentonville Restore parking lot sale looking to help.

"They took on a really serious challenge," says store assistant manager Sean Schneider. "Parking lot sale is probably the busiest day of the year. We thought we would never see them again."

Not only did Lauren come back to volunteer at the restore, Schneider convinced her to start a Habitat for Humanity chapter at Bentonville High School.

"We were like okay," says Presley. "Then like a year later, we were like okay yeah, we want to do this because everything about habitat is so awesome."

Lauren went on to serve as president and vice president and grew the chapter to forty to fifty members. Each member logged more than seventy-five volunteer hours a year.

"She is a wonderful and charismatic person," says Schneider. "She has a big heart and she is driven to help the community in any way that she can."

"Starting off, we were only able to help with fundraising until we turned 16 and then we were able to go to some of the builds," says Presley.

"That's part of the cool part about my job is to get someone who has never done anything and when they leave they can hammer a nail, they can saw on a line and mark lines," says Foreman Gary Zielke.

While in high-school, Lauren helped build three houses and watched three families become home owners for the first time.

"If it doesn't touch your heart, you got heart problems," says Zielke.

"Everyone together, we were all in this," says Presley. "It's really awesome and it builds community too. So, it's cool to be part of that."

"People like Lauren are what make it work," says Zielke. "They are very special people and they have a heart for the community. They just want to make a difference. We're thankful for people like that because that's what makes us work."

Lauren is now a freshman at the University of Arkansas and is looking to get involved in the Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity chapter.
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