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Giving Back Can Start with "Nah"

AARP Maryland salutes intergenerational goodwill in Little Falls Village
Addisu (left) and Tirhas (right) Dempsey believe that giving back to the older residents in their Maryland community of Little Falls Village could start a positive chain reaction of goodwill.

The following guest blog was written by Bethesda Chevy Chase High School senior Addisu Dempsey, who with the help of his twin sister Tirhas founded a community assistance group they named "NAH (Nobody's Alone Here)."

Everybody knows that teenagers say “nah” a lot. My mother used to make a face when my twin sister and I would answer, “nah” -- but not anymore! Ever since I realized what else it could stand for, all of us are proud to talk about NAH.

NAH stands for "Nobody’s Alone Here." In every neighborhood, all of us need each other. This past spring, when I was a junior at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, I became a Lazarus Leadership Fellow and was tasked with creating a community service project in 200 hours. My project became NAH. It's a pretty simple idea that began when I saw one of my neighbors stumble as she tried to get one of those big blue Montgomery County trash bins down her hill to the curb. I ran over to help her, and felt good when she thanked me. Suddenly, it seemed so ridiculous to me that all the older people on our street had to wrestle their own garbage bins to the street, when there are lots of teenagers right here to help--right nearby. My twin sister agreed to work with me to get it started.

All Lazarus Leadership Fellows have to find a sponsoring organization, and that’s when I got really lucky. Mr. Todd Smith, the Executive Director of Little Falls Village (LFV), said he’d be glad to help us, and he really did. He gave me time and advice. He told us to start small (the 20816 zip code area), and suggested that once we figured out how to manage our communication with seniors and teenagers, we could grow the NAH community.

MD NAH kids in community
The Dempsey twins have gotten support from other students in the community very quickly.

Manuel Valencia at LFV designed a logo for us, and Little Falls Village donated a huge box of neon vests for volunteers to wear. One of our neighbors put us in touch with AARP Maryland State Director Hank Greenberg, and he loved the NAH idea too--a box of AARP ball caps soon arrived in the mail!

Mr. Smith came with us to the high school to speak to Mr. James Tapley, Athletic Director at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. He oversees the Student Service Learning program, and makes determinations regarding qualified organizations and oversight. Following a trial period and a limited test run, Mr. Tapley agreed to allow N.A.H. volunteer hours to satisfy county high school service requirements. We’re still pretty small, but we’re growing!

Now that the new school year has started, we feel confident that lots of students at BCC are going to be saying “nah” more often!

Addisu and his twin sister are continuing to develop their program, and AARP Maryland will be honoring their achievements at their upcoming Andrus Awards for Community Service event in Frederick on October 2nd.. To learn more about the program, email or visit

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