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Donor gives a gigantic boost to food drive, stays anonymous

  • Cascade High School students Brendon Collins (left), Huy Hoang (in truck) and Zach Brown load food purchased by an anonymous donor at Everett´s Costco...

    Photo courtesy of Taras Ilchuk

    Cascade High School students Brendon Collins (left), Huy Hoang (in truck) and Zach Brown load food purchased by an anonymous donor at Everett´s Costco store into a truck Monday morning.

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  • Cascade High School students Brendon Collins (left), Huy Hoang (in truck) and Zach Brown load food purchased by an anonymous donor at Everett´s Costco...

    Photo courtesy of Taras Ilchuk

    Cascade High School students Brendon Collins (left), Huy Hoang (in truck) and Zach Brown load food purchased by an anonymous donor at Everett´s Costco store into a truck Monday morning.

A donor’s bounty
These goods are among more than 20,000 items donated by one man to Cascade High School’s food drive: 360 bags cereal, 2,880 cans chicken noodle soup, 2,464 cans cream of mushroom soup, 2,304 packages spaghetti, 780 jars spaghetti sauce, 1,920 cans chili.
By Julie Muhlstein
Herald Writer
EVERETT — It’s a food drive, not a holiday movie plot. The man who made a huge, anonymous donation to Cascade High School’s annual effort is no imaginary angel.
He’s real.
Ask Linda Anderson, a physics teacher who met the generous mystery man Monday after thousands of pounds of food were hauled into her Cascade High classroom.
“The kids were unloading a big truck, and I went down and introduced myself,” Anderson said. “I don’t know anything about him. But he basically taught my kids the best lesson they’re going to get all year.”
Since Thursday, the man who first met Cascade students collecting food outside a Safeway store in the Silver Firs area has donated more than 20,000 items to the school’s annual holiday food drive, Anderson said.
“It’s crazy. I didn’t even believe it at first,” said Brent Collins, a 17-year-old Cascade senior.
The teens said the man told them he is here on business from New Orleans. They would not give a reporter his name, saying the man sought to keep his identity private.
“He wants to remain anonymous,” said Roberta Hasstedt, an Associated Student Body adviser who oversees the food drive. “From my understanding, the kids were just out ‘canning’ — that’s what they call it.”
On Thursday, the man Collins describes as an Asian-American in his mid-30s donated 12 boxes of cereal to teens at the Safeway. “On Friday, he wanted to donate more,” Collins said. “He asked kids if they wanted to go shopping. He said to get two carts, fill them with food and he’d pay for it.”
That grocery bill was about $900, Collins said. He was only warming up for a weekend spree.
On Sunday, he accompanied another student to the Costco Warehouse store on 19th Avenue SE in Everett.
“He spent $9,500,” Collins said. “He bought six pallets — spaghetti noodles and sauce, chicken noodle and cream of mushroom soup and chili.”
Then the man showed up at 6 a.m. Monday, hours before Costco officially opens, so his truck could be used to help move food purchased Sunday to Cascade’s campus. It took a Costco forklift and three trucks to accomplish that task.
“We’re not really sure what touched him to do this,” Collins said. “He wanted to make a dent. And he wanted us to get first in the food drive.”
Collins said his fellow senior Huy Hoang went out for coffee with the donor Sunday. “I guess (Huy) said something right,” Collins said.
Anderson described the man as “very reserved.”
“He was looking for a way to donate. He pointed to my student — it was Huy — and said, ‘He sold me,’ ” the teacher said.
The food drive benefits Volunteers of America and two smaller food banks, said Thera Martin, a spokeswoman for Volunteers of America, Western Washington. Cascade students “adopt” 100 families through the agency’s holiday basket bureau, Martin said. The school also has a giving tree, and provides toys for families in the program.
First-period classes are in competition with each other over which can collect the most food. Anderson said that history teacher Bill Stengele “always wins, year after year after year.” Maybe not this year, though. The anonymous donor’s items were procured by students in her class. “We have over 20,000 items from this one individual,” Anderson said.
“This gentleman also told our kids to give him some names from the giving tree,” Anderson said.
On Dec. 14, first-period classes will turn the cafeteria into grocery store filled with donated goods. Students “shop” for families, using lists provided by Volunteers of America. On Dec. 15, food and gifts will be delivered by students to each family.
“Kids have embraced this,” Hasstedt said. “Lots of alumni don’t come back for homecoming, but they do come back to help with the food drive.”
Collins has powerful memories of delivering food and toys in years past. “I went up to a house two years ago. I knocked on the door, but it was for a sister who was living in a motor home around back,” he said. “She had two kids and no electricity. I had six presents, three for each child.
“They had nothing, no power,” he said. “The kids gave me hugs.”
Monday afternoon, Collins was back outside another store. He doesn’t expect another miracle. He is grateful when people give what they can.
“This is a remarkable experience, even before they met this gentleman,” Anderson said. “Everything I’m seeing in these kids, the camaraderie, I’m overwhelmed.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Cascade High SchoolCharityChristmas

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