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Jerry Harris: Founder of Color A Smile

Color A Smile sends heartwarming drawings to people around the country who are in need of a smile. Their drawings come from children, teens, and adults alike, and show seniors, military personnel, and hospital patients that someone out there is thinking about them. Over the past 30 years, Color A Smile has given our millions of drawings. Color A Smile has a simple process to submit drawings and has tons of options on their website to choose from. Learn more here!

How did Color A Smile get its start?

Color A Smile is a nonprofit that started over 30 years ago. My wife and I got the idea from visiting a friend’s house who had their kids’ drawings on the fridge. Our kids weren’t at the age yet where they could draw, and it made us so happy to see drawings from kids. We decided to start collecting drawings to send to people who don’t have young kids in their lives. It started as an intergenerational project to find kids to send drawings to the elderly, but we realized as time went on that everyone likes to color regardless of their age. Now, Color A Smile provides volunteer opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to experience the joys of giving back.

Who do your drawings come from, and where are they being sent?

We get drawings sent to us from all over the country. There aren’t a lot of projects out there that a second grade class, a fraternity, a business, and a family can all participate in. It’s a win-win that benefits the volunteers and the recipients. Our recipients are mostly senior citizens but we can send to anyone in need of a smile. We send drawings to the military, to patients in hospitals, to nursing homes, and more. We have different kinds of mailing options depending on how many drawings a location needs. Individuals on our mailing list get a couple drawings each month, and we send tens of thousands of drawings each month to Meals on Wheels programs for them to distribute to people who use their services.

How did the pandemic affect your work?

During the pandemic, our numbers increased significantly. People were looking for ways to safely volunteer, and they were stuck inside looking for activities to do, so we received a ton of new drawings. Our partnership with Meals on Wheels really took off during the pandemic as well. High school students started reaching out to us to get their volunteer hours fulfilled by doing drawings for us. We determined if a student sends us six drawings, they get an hour of volunteer time to add to their list. It’s given us a whole new avenue to get drawings. We didn’t have a vision for how Color A Smile would evolve when this started, and it’s amazing to see the unique ways we’ve grown.

How can people get involved in the work you do?

It’s just four simple steps: download a coloring page from the website, color it, put your name on it, and mail it to us. There are blank pages if you want to free draw, or outlined drawings that you color in. Volunteers have the option to put their first name and age on the drawings to make it a little personal. We don’t send drawings out without a name, because most of the thank you letters we get from recipients are addressed to the person who sent it. Sometimes we get drawings without names listed, which happens when we get pages sent to us from places like probation offices. In that case, our student volunteers go through the drawings and add names to them. There’s plenty of options on our website to suit whatever you want to draw.


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