Emiyah Twietmeyer might only be 10, but she has more charity food drives under her belt than most people twice her age.
But this fifth-grader at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School doesn't get hung up on age, whether it's her own or other people's. She just wants to help the less fortunate by working with Together We Cope, a local nonprofit group that serves families and individuals in crisis.
"I have learned that age doesn’t matter," she wrote in a flyer this year for her Fourth Annual Emiyah and Friends Food Drive (you can view it in this article's media gallery). "You can help others whether you are 7 or 43 or 100. So, I started talking to other kids and adults about helping with my food drive."
On Saturday, Oct. 6, Emiyah and her group of volunteers—according to Kerri Twietmeyer, Emiyah's mom, this will include Emiyah's 8-year-old brother, Luke, and their McAuliffe classmates, as well as friends from Great Illinois Swimmers (G.ILL.S), the Tinley Park Bobcats soccer team and Girl Scout Tinley Park Troop 61100—will be going door to door, visiting the around 250 homes in her neighborhood that she canvassed the previous weekend with flyers explaining what she is doing and what kind of donations are needed.
Here's what's on the food drive and Together We Cope's "shopping list":
- peanut butter and jelly
- pasta and Rice
- pasta sauce, Spaghetti-Os, canned macaroni products
- canned soup, tuna and other meats
- boxed meals (Hamburger Helper, Pasta Roni, etc.)
- canned fruits and veggies
- canned chili or beef stew
- lunch snacks and juice boxes
- personal care items (full- or travel-size soap, shampoo, etc.)
Emiyah's perspective as a kid also has led her to create birthday gift bags for children whose parents are unable to afford presents or the bill for a party. It's the type of idea that occurs to a kid, someone who understands how signficant birthdays are at that age. Yet these goodie bags are probably more important to the parents, who now don't have to miss out on seeing their son or daughter blow out birthday candles or open a present, childhood joys that can be sacrificed when the first priority is putting food on the table.
This is what Emiyah needs for the birthday goodie bags:
- cake mix
- disposable cake pans
- small gifts, books, etc.
- gift bags
- other party items
(Check out the flyer in this article's media gallery for more details, such as how you can still donate items Saturday even if you're not home.)
In 2009, the food drive's first year, Emiyah visited 90 houses and collected 500 pounds of food, she wrote in her flyer. Last year, Emiyah's drive collected 3,000 pounds of food and generated 32 birthday bags for families served by Together We Cope, Kerri Twietmeyer said in an e-mail she sent me. Those donations came primarily from 200-plus residences in Twietmeyer's neighborhood, she added.
This year, though, the food drive will try to expand to include more of the community, with donation drop boxes set up at the Tinley Park Public Library and Walgreen's at 171st Street and 84th Avenue, Kerri wrote. Donations can be made at the drop boxes through Saturday, Oct. 13.
READ: Local Woman Kick-Starts Effort to Get a Goat for Haitians
"During the [first] food drive, I realized that I not only wanted to reach out and help people in need, but I wanted to inspire others to help, too," Emiyah wrote.
Kerri says she'll be out collecting donations with her daughter Saturday, helping with the physical labor but also encouraging Emiyah to focus and pursue her passions simply by supporting her efforts. It makes me wonder who is learning by example more: mother or daughter?
Who is inspiring whom?
YOUR TURN: The Emiyah and Friends Food Drive is still looking for people to help. E-mail email@example.com if you're interested in getting involved or have questions about making donations. Also, Emiyah is looking for people to share their stories of how it felt to tell others. You can send those stories to the same e-mail address or tell them in the comments section of this article. I will pass them along to Emiyah and feature some of may favorites in a future Editor's Notebook.
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