Mueller didn't know how many donations he and others in teacher Kelly Kettler's advanced reading and writing class had pulled Friday morning from two cars and a trailer.
"It looks like a lot," said Ricky, 14.
About 4,000 food items were collected during a food drive organized by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff John Lovick said. The food drive began a week before Christmas and ended Friday when police officers picked up the last donations before heading to the school.
Lovick started the food drive shortly after Kettler asked him if he would be the keynote speaker at the school's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. assembly. He agreed and said he wanted to help bring in both food and monetary donations to support the school's weekend Backpack Program. Teachers organized the Backpack Program last year to help needy students by sending them home with food on weekends. Lovick was moved to help collect donations after seeing a YouTube video made by Granite Falls High School students in November to promote the school's eighth annual community food drive.
Lovick told students he had hoped to raise about $1,000 but didn't do that. He instead collected $5,020.12 for the program.
The donations surprised students and teachers at the school.
"I'm so thankful for Sheriff Lovick," Robyn Barth, a teacher who helps to organize the food program, said to students. "I'm thankful for his heart in service and I'm thankful for the energy and the time he put in for you guys."
Lovick asked students during his speech to look at a photos of his childhood home and an elementary school he attended while growing up in Louisiana.
"I know what it's like to be without," he said. "I know what it's like to go to school hungry. I want you all to know there is no shame in not having. The shame should be in not reaching out and not helping others."
Lovick told students the assembly was celebrating one of his "absolute heroes" and that he thought about what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have told them if he was speaking to them.
"Dr. King gave us some wonderful advice during his short life," he said.
Lovick said he thought the civil rights leader would have given students at Granite Falls Middle School four pieces of advice. First, he would have told them to stay in school and to be honest and respectful to everyone they meet, Lovick said. Then, King would have told them to never give up.
In describing what he believed would be King's last piece of advice for today's students, Lovick spoke briefly about the bombing that killed four young girls on Sept. 15, 1963, at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. What King said in a broadcast after the girls' funeral was a defining moment for him, Lovick said.
"He said that we live in a nation founded in honor, respect and love and when we live in a nation founded in the principle of love, to hate anyone is just a burden that is too much for me to bear," Lovick said. "What Dr. King would say to you today is if you have any hatred in your heart for anyone, let it be too much of a burden for you to bear."
Lovick's message resonated with students, including Ricky.
"I took away from his speech that you can overcome poverty with the help of others," he said.
The message to never give up is also relevant, student Mandi Cook said.
"The message was really amazing," said Mandi, 13. "You shouldn't give up on anything."
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; email@example.com.
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