No one who saw Brett, Ethan, and Jordan collecting food in front of the Edmonds QFC on December 9th and 11th will ever forget them. The activity began with a good sign—literally and figuratively. The literal sign was a poster written by teacher Beckie that read, ‘Help Us Help Others. Food Bank Drive.’
The figurative sign was authored by fate. Carolyn Meyer, our school’s Director, went inside the store to find a means of securing the poster to the legs of the card table that our donation boxes rested on. When she asked a check-out stand cashier for a roll of adhesive, a customer standing in line pulled a tape dispenser out of his grocery bag and handed it to her.
Teachers Beckie and Dianne, with assistance from Jennifer, made sure the boys were warm and comfortable in the chilly weather. The three students took up positions in front of the QFC market directly across the street from the Louis Braille School. There they solicited donations verbally and by handing out flyers to shoppers entering and exiting the building. The large boxes set upon the card table to hold donations had explanations taped to them which read:
The Louis Braille School students are asking for your help! We are collecting non-perishable food for the local food bank to help those in need in our community this season. Please donate and help us with our project of helping others.
The presence of television news cameramen who covered the food drive for Seattle stations KING-5 and KOMO-4 confused or intimated some shoppers at first, although the boys were glad for the attention and for the chance to put on earphones and hold the microphone.
Nationwide, news media recently have been reporting a drop in food bank donations at a time when increasing numbers of people need help with feeding their families. Within that context, Jordan, Ethan, and Brett were unusually successful. They spent 45 minutes collecting donations each of the two days they were at QFC, for a total of one-and-a-half hours. In that brief time, people responded with what amounted to about 20 full shopping bags of groceries and $125 in cash. Some shoppers who donated food did so by returning to the store after initially exiting.
I saw more than one person look at the boys with a real-life poignancy that Hollywood actors can only hope to approximate. One man came out of the market with no groceries at all. He saw the boys, but kept walking. Then he slowed his step, stopped, and turned back to watch and listen for a minute. Perhaps he read the poster. In any case, he lightly shook his head, walked towards the boys, opened his wallet, and left a generous donation for the food bank. It was obvious that something opened inside himself first.
All of us had seen the cameramen genuinely enjoying the company of our students and teachers. After the food drive story was broadcast on KING-5 and KOMO-4 during the evening of December 11th, I took the unusual step of re-contacting the cameramen and asking them to write about their impressions of that day.
Here are their notes:
“I was impressed [by] what great kids they are. It was wonderful to see [them] putting their own issues aside and doing something to help their community. It was very apparent their teachers care very deeply about them. What a warm and nurturing environment the school provides to the students. Keep up the good work.”
—Bryan Hollowell KOMO-4 TV News
“Sometimes I get to do something fun. As a television news photographer I have the opportunity to observe and witness many fascinating subjects and events. Not all of them are pleasant. Each fun shoot seems to be balanced with too many sad stories or heavy stories about our current economy or Iraq.
“Last week I found myself on a story that made me forget all the nonsense and remember how special individual people can be. While most of us are tangled up in deciding what presents to get during the holidays, I met a group of students and teachers that were thinking about others this Christmas season.
“The students of the Louis Braille School took the time to ask for donations at an Edmonds grocery store that ended up going to the local food bank. While each of these students has [his] own set of hurdles [in] everyday life, they were enthusiastically working the folks for donations and thanking everyone they met either way.
“I did interviews with the students and one of the teachers and they gave me great sound bites for our news story. I appreciate all of them taking the time to talk to me and help me tell the story of that event. I was reminded of the principle of Ujima and the spirit of Kwanza that the students were studying* and left feeling pretty good about the rest of my day. I wish I could have stayed longer and seen how many goodies they collected. I just wanted to say good job to the Louis Braille school and thank you for giving me a good news day.”
—David Wike, KING-5 TV News
And what did Ethan, Jordan, and Brett do in the wake of all this attention?
They wrote ‘thank you’ notes to QFC for giving them the opportunity to collect food donations for the hungry.
*See a previous blog post, ‘We’re Going to the Food Bank,‘ for more on Ojima.