Emily Wiley, of Schenectady, cares deeply for her community and everyone in it. She created a foundation in her name to help gather items for families in need in Schenectady, including school supplies and warm winter coats. She also helps buy holiday presents and toys.

For the past three years, Emily's been working to be able to provide to those in need and expand her foundation. She's also made time to work at her other job: being a new mom.

As part of the “Hometown Heroes” series, we’ve partnered with County Waste, Latham Ford, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region and Awards by Walsh to celebrate local unsung heroes for their good deeds and honorable work.

We asked Emily a few questions. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: What inspired you to start the Emily Wiley Foundation?

A: My inspiration is my nephew, Nas. I have always wanted to help people, ever since I was a small child. I remember someone telling me I was too small and I couldn't help or make a difference. As an adult I was told there are so many organizations out there that I wasn't going to make an impact.

My nephew asked me for $1 one day at the grocery store and I assumed it was for one of the coin-operated claw machines. We were leaving and I noticed a man sitting outside and he smiled at my nephew. I said "Nas, what did you do with that dollar" and he said "I gave it to that man." At that moment I knew that I could make a difference, no matter how small. If he could make someone smile with just a dollar, his smile and his beautiful heart, then I figure I could do the same in my community.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A: The most rewarding thing about what I do is the sparkle in a child's eye when they see their new hat, gloves, scarf and coat; when they see their backpack they've never had before and it's filled with school supplies. I wake up on Christmas morning about 5:30 am with so much excitement. I just anticipate the look on the children's faces when they see "santa" has come. I can hear their screeches and feel their happiness. Although I'm not with them and I don't actually see their faces, I remember that joy from being a child and it just makes my heart grow that I can be apart of giving that to another, especially a child.

Q: What are the biggest challenges?

A: The biggest challenge I have is knowing that I can't help all the children in need. That's why helping the ones I can is so rewarding.

The second challenge is making people believe in what I do, convincing members of our community that even the smallest contribution can make a great impact and that their support can help secure the potential of our future and our youth.
The third is funding, I could help so many more children and families, and even open a youth center, if I just had more funding.

Q: Do you consider yourself a "hero?" Why or why not?

A: No. I do not consider myself a hero. In my life, heroes are soldiers, fire fighters, children fighting life threatening illnesses and my dad. I just want to make a difference and inspire.