Samantha Riehle

Samantha Riehle, 24, opened her heart to volunteerism at a young age when her mother took her to the soup kitchen at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Lafayette, Ind., and put her to work. These days, she’s an active member of the A-Team, the volunteer group at the Lafayette Kohl’s department store. She even finds time to stop by St. Ann’s and feed those in need.

Age: 24
Hometown: Lafayette, Indiana
Major: Consumer and family sciences education
Career goal: Home economics teacher
Why she volunteers: “The feeling you get when you help people out is just unbelievable. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

On volunteering at St. Ann’s: “You have to be up really early, which is rougher now than when I was little. But it’s a great program. The last time I went, I must have chopped 100 pounds of onions! The best part is that people don’t have to show proof that they need it. They just come to the window and we give them the bag and they go on. It’s for anyone that needs it.”

Her first Kohl’s Cares for Kids A-Team event was: “Forced. I didn’t want to do it but they begged me. Of course, after that one time, I was hooked. I ate breakfast with the Easter Bunny at Golden Corral with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. It was fantastic.”

On being No. 2 in the country: “Our store is currently No. 2 behind Reno, Nev., for the amount of A-Team events completed this year. We’ve done about 140. We go all over. I’ve done about 20 events this year, but my favorite was the Riley Radioathon.”

Why Riley rules: “It was just very touching. It was in the atrium of Riley (Hospital for Children in Indianapolis), and they had these tricycles with IVs attached to them so the kids could ride. I was just answering the phone and people were thanking me. I wasn’t doing anything!”

How volunteering helps her: “My fiancé is deployed in Iraq right now for the seventh time. He’s in special ops, the Black Hawk Down unit, you know, like the movie. So all the volunteering is good. It keeps my mind off things.”

On her future as a military wife and continuing to give back: “My fiancé is based at Fort Campbell, Ky., right now. I’m excited about going there. I have a year left of school, but they have Kohl’s down there, and I don’t think they do as many A-Team events as we do, so I could get them involved. I guess that’s pretty corny.”

On her iPod: Rascal Flatts. Lifehouse. The Goo Goo Dolls.
Time waster: Sudoku. “The iPod screen is really small and your eyes start to cross. It’s really bad.”

Free time: A glass of wine, sushi and a movie. “That’s pretty much my perfect evening.”

By Tanya Brown