“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” That’s the recurring theme in the book Miss Rumphius, written by Barbara Cooney and one of about three dozen titles recently gifted to each of eight area elementary schools by the Four County Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) as part of the group’s philanthropy library project.

The characters and messages in each of the titles varies but the overarching theme of the books is giving back to others and the community. In Miss Rumphius the main character, Great Aunt Alice, goes from being a studious young girl into a globe-trotting adult, following through on the grand goals she pronounced in her youth-to travel to faraway places, live by the sea and-at the urging of her grandfather-make the world more beautiful. As a youngster, she’s not sure what that last goal really means until she’s nearly bed-ridden in her home by the sea and the seeds from a few hastily planted flowers start to spread. Once well, she fills her pockets with more seed, scattering them everywhere she goes. The beauty multiples year after year and accordingly, Great Aunt Alice encourages her great niece, Alice, to continue that legacy of making the world more beautiful.

The young girl says she’s not sure “yet” what that can be but what a lovely gift to plant that idea into the minds of children, letting them ponder the possibilities from an early age when we’re more apt to dream big. Teaching the art of giving early on is one of the YAC’s goals in this project and it’s an excellent strategy. Hopefully, the books and any in-classroom activities teachers are able to use will get youngsters thinking about how they help their friends and neighbors today and well into the future.

It’s very heartening to see teen members of the YAC group modeling philanthropy and service for younger kids to witness. Visiting classrooms to read these books and share their experiences will go a long ways toward solidifying the message of service. It’s likely that some of these youngsters have been directly impacted by a YAC project already-whether it’s a backpack giveaway in the summer or some new tool or program at their school identified through the group’s Needs Assessment. For the past 29 years, Four County’s YAC group has been giving back to the communities where they live and now they’ve opted to make a major investment to ensure that legacy continues with the next generation.