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Ogdensburg student receives statewide recognition

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An Ogdensburg teen has been named as one of New York’s top youth volunteers of 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Camille E. Marshall, 17, of Ogdensburg, was one of eight New York students to be dubbed distinguished finalists by Prudential Spirit of Community Awards judges for her “impressive” community service activities and for co-founding PJs 4 X-Mas.

The last time an Ogdensburg Free Academy student was chosen as a finalist for the award was in 1997.

For placing third, she received a bronze medallion, a certificate and letter of recognition from President Barack H. Obama.

Miss Marshall founded “PJs 4 X-Mas” with her sister, Abigail F., in 2009 as a way to pass along their family tradition of receiving new pajamas every year for Christmas.

“I didn’t think it would get this big,” Miss Marshall said at her home Wednesday. “I really didn’t. I just thought it was going to stay as this little project.”

The sisters since their project started have clothed 7,246 children and collected more than $26,578 to benefit families in need through several local organizations.

The girls have also provided clothing to people facing difficult circumstances, including the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

When a local family’s house burned down a week before Christmas last year, the Marshall sisters were there to help.

“They lost everything and had to move in with their parents,” Camille Marshall said. “We went to Wal-Mart and bought them two pairs of pajamas each. When we walked in the door with the bags, they started to cry.”

“They get to see how it impacts people,” the girls’ mother, Melissa Carroll-Durham, said.

The girls have partnered with nearly 20 local service organizations to distribute the pajamas, including St. Lawrence County Renewal House and the Salvation Army, and, most recently, the St. Lawrence and Jefferson County Foster Program.

“The girls actually got to go to a small party and watch the kids in the foster program open the pajamas,” their stepfather, Jacob Durham, said. “It’s nice to know you help people out, but it is also nice to see them get it. It touches a little bit closer to home.”

The girls’ parents said they are proud of their daughters.

“When they came up with the idea, I was happy they thought of someone else besides themselves,” Mr. Durham said. “That made me very proud. This takes a lot of work on all our parts. We don’t have a lot of volunteers. We have to place and pick the drop boxes up ourselves. But it’s really good to see. It’s good when they can see the people receive the pajamas. I think the first year it surprised them that friends at school were coming up to them and saying thanks. They had no idea what impact they had.”

A senior at Ogdensburg Free Academy, Camille Marshall said she is hoping to attend Nazareth College, Rochester, or Clarkson University, Potsdam, next fall and eventually receive her doctoral degree in physical therapy.

“I’d be home to help for break during Thanksgiving, Black Friday and will have a month off for Christmas,” she said. “It’s something I am hoping to be a part of for a long time.”

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