Girls kick food drive into high gear

Students brave cold


Herald Writer

EVERETT — When it’s her turn to tell what she’s thankful for this year, Cheyanne Clark will relate a different story from the kiddie table at Grandma’s on Thanksgiving.

"I’m thankful that I could give to others who wouldn’t be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner and for all the others who are giving," the 12-year-old North Middle School seventh-grader said she’ll tell her family.

That’s because for several hours over the past three days, Cheyanne and her friends stood in front of the Safeway store on Broadway to collect items for a food drive at school. All that food will go to families who have children attending North Middle School.

The food drive started out like every other food drive: kids rummaging through their cupboards for a can of green beans or a box of stuffing.

With a little bit of creativity and a lot of care, Thanksgiving will be a little brighter for about a dozen families.

Food collected by the girls, along with what other students have brought in, will be sorted this week and given to the families, said Sandy Daoust, family resource advocate at North Middle School.

The names of the families receiving the supplies will be a secret, but the girls said they are glad to know it’s helping people at their own school.

"I feel happy they are getting hot meals," 13-year-old Heather Campbell said.

Michelle Whetsell, 12, said she’d like to collect enough oatmeal, baby food, canned goods and spaghetti sauce to last for more than just Thanksgiving Day.

"I hope it’s not just for these two meals coming up, but for other times," she said.

Theresa Clark, Cheyanne’s mom, said she learned of the girls’ plan Wednesday after school.

They were in the kitchen rounding up cardboard to make signs, Clark said.

"They said, ‘We’re going to Safeway and do a canned food drive,’" she said.

Daoust said a lot of families come to her in dire need of clothing and other goods.

"We have families at school who are low income, and some are homeless," she said. "We felt we had a big need for food baskets."

But Daoust, who said she was surprised to hear the news about the girls’ efforts, said the food is slow coming in.

"I’m looking forward to tomorrow," she said. "I can think of at least 10 to 12 families who could use a basket."

During the food drive, baristas from a nearby espresso stand have helped keep Cheyanne and her friends warm. It’s been hot chocolates on the house for the girls holding the cardboard signs.

Dandi Jo Espresso stand owner Andrea Sather said the girls have done an outstanding job. And she said she’s shared the storefront space with a lot of groups over the past seven years.

"They’re a good little group of girls," she said. "They’re just hyper enough to be enthusiastic about what they are doing, but they’re pleasant and respectful."

Clark said this isn’t the first time her daughter surprised her. Last year on a train trip to Leavenworth to see a holiday light display, Santa asked Cheyanne what she wanted for Christmas.

Cheyanne told Santa she wanted to give money to children in a Third World country, Clark said.

Cheyanne’s Christmas wish was fulfilled about three months later when the family, after careful research, gave to a national organization in Cheyanne’s name.

Clark said she’s proud of Cheyanne and her friends.

"They know they’ve got more than a lot of kids have," she said. "They’re coming to that age where they’re learning that sometimes it’s the feeling inside that makes things better."

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