The day Elijah King saw an upbeat fourth-grade classmate begging for food on the street, he realized hunger could affect anyone. "Seeing someone so nice and friendly in that situation boggled my mind," King says.
King had already been collecting food donations through his church in Atlanta, Georgia, since he was five years old. But seeing his friend go hungry inspired him to do even more. In 2011, King launched My Steps R Ordered, a community initiative that distributes care bags filled with first-aid supplies, toiletries, and snacks to more than 150 homeless neighbors. "I want them to know that there is someone out there who cares about them," King says.
In 2014, Unilever honored King's charitable efforts by featuring him in their Bright Future Speeches campaign, which empowers promising young leaders to share their visions for a brighter future. As part of the campaign, King traveled to India for two weeks. "That trip taught me so much about world hunger, almost too much for one lifetime," King says. "Under this one bridge [in India], I didn't just see a group of homeless people but a whole town of them," he remembers.
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King's India trip culminated with him delivering a speech, excerpts from which later appeared in a television advertisement viewed by 300 million people. In his speech, King challenged fellow Americans: "How can we hold our heads high when we throw 70 billion pounds of food away a year while 16 million children in America have to go hungry for days, weeks, or even months?"
King attributes his strong public speaking skills to years of acting and modeling. Since the age of three, he has appeared in numerous print ads, plays, films, and TV shows. He co-starred in the 2012 short film Crossover and even made a brief appearance on The Office. In 2010, King and his mom moved to Los Angeles to further his acting career.
And yet, after college, King imagines himself working not as an actor but as a biomolecular engineer, or maybe as a screenwriter (action or science fiction). King is a self-proclaimed "huge sci-fi nerd" who reveres Star Trek, Star Wars, and the video game Mass Effect 3. He's already writing his first action-thriller screenplay.
No matter where his future takes him, King says he intends to continue helping the homeless. When we spoke to him last fall, he and his mom had just visited the men and women who sleep under a highway near King's home. King says they delivered 10 plates of "greens, ham, yams, mac-and-cheese—you know, all the really good stuff."
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