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Bella Niems
: Sage Creek High School senior Bella Niems and several other high school students delivered care packages of hygiene products and blankets to the homeless in Encinitas and Carlsbad on Dec. 19. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad teen helping homeless during pandemic

CARLSBAD — Driven to success and with a career in nonprofits in mind, one Sage Creek High School senior is already making a difference.

Isabella “Bella” Niems, 17, is on a mission to make the holiday season a little brighter for those less fortunate. The senior was recently named one of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s Rising Stars for her Homeless Care Packages project.

For the past several weeks, Niems, her family and several other students have raised money to build care packages consisting of masks, deodorant, toothbrushes, blankets, feminine hygiene products and other essential items, and deliver them to the homeless.

“Originally, it was just going to be us pooling our money together,” she said. “There are so many people that want to help the community … so I started a GoFundMe. Within days, I received over $1,200.”

Her project came from a deep desire to serve her community and as a way to jump-start her desired career in the nonprofit sector. Niems was also a guest speaker during the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation’s Dec. 10 holiday party, where she explained her part in the chamber’s program and community service project.

The foundation donated $775 to help Niems hit her goal, but she plans on continuing her fundraiser and community service project after the holidays.

“I have always been giving. My grandfather and I started delivering Meals on Wheels packages to the elderly … and that’s kind of really where this rooted from,” she explained. “Since he passed away this year, this is something I really wanted to continue into the future.”

Niems started the project during Thanksgiving as a way to help, but also to gain experience in starting a “pseudo” nonprofit. Her career aspirations are to be a CEO of a nonprofit and is looking to attend her “dream school” USC next fall, although she is also applying to Stanford and UCLA.

She’s also recruited other students, including her boyfriend Corey Telfer, 17, and Quincy Arnold, 13, who, with several others, joined Niems in distributing the care packages on Dec. 19 at Magee Park in Carlsbad and downtown Encinitas.

Arnold saw Niems’ project on Instagram and her mom suggested she get involved. Both she and Telfer said it feels good to give back and help people in need.

“My mom talked to me about it and said I could really use this, and it would be a good experience for me,” Arnold said. “I love seeing their reactions. I love serving people and every year my parents and I go to a homeless shelter … and feed them.”

Note: The author sits on the Board of Directors for the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation.