Everett third-grader organized coin drive for Oso relief efforts

EVERETT — A third-grade student at Emerson Elementary School is making a difference, and her efforts have yielded interest from prospective future employers.

Elisabeth “Bette” Olney, 9, launched a coin drive at her school to raise money for those affected by the Oso mudslide. The project brought in $2,340 for disaster relief.

Olney started the effort with her mother, Tanya Dowell, of Everett. Olney had the idea when she saw the devastation on the news after the March 22 mudslide.

“I felt really sad and I felt bad for the people who lost their homes,” Olney said. “I knew I wanted to collect money for Oso.”

Olney went to her principal, Donna Kapustka, for help. Together they came up with a plan for the weeklong coin drive.

Olney named her project “Change for Good.” She worked over spring break to achieve her goal.

She made posters to promote the cause and crafted 26 boxes to collect money in classrooms.

The money was taken in and counted each morning during the drive. Olney’s stepdad, Steve Dowell, a Boeing mechanic, said it brought in $250 to $700 a day.

“It was quite amazing,” he said.

Olney rallied other students at the school to support her cause with speeches and presentations. Beyond her efforts there, she arranged with friends at a grocery store and at a bowling alley to collect additional money. Olney also enlisted her family to pitch in.

She was given a $100 donation on three occasions during her campaign. Olney collected $2,340 in all.

The school held an assembly so she could pass the money along.

“I gave United Way a big, giant check,” Olney said. “It felt good.”

A representative of United Way of Snohomish County at the assembly encouraged Olney to come work for the nonprofit when she’s old enough. Though the coin drive marked her first volunteer project, Olney said, it won’t be her last.

“I already got a job offer,” she said.

United Way plans to use the money from the drive to help send 50 children affected by the Oso disaster to summer camp. All of the funds are expected to directly benefit those recovering from the mudslide.

“Helping is better than receiving,” Olney said. “Anyone can do something.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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