As you gather with family and friends for the holidays, I hope you’ll be inspired to share this story with a young person in your life — and encourage them to think of others, who may not be fortunate enough to enjoy a warm meal, have a place to live or people to celebrate with.
Meet Ethan, Emily and Sophia — three of the youngest humanitarians you may ever meet. Taking the lead from Phoebe, their kindergarten predecessor, they have raised money, rallied resources and heightened visibility (about hunger in their community) to enable the San Francisco Food Bank to serve more than 135,000 meals.
It all started a year ago, when Phoebe was in kindergarten (she is now in first grade). Phoebe saw homeless and hungry people in her community and asked her mother, “Why do they look so sad and dirty?” Her mother explained homelessness and hunger to her.
Phoebe knew two things: that it made her sad and that she wanted to help. She enlisted the help of her teacher, Kathleen Albert and her classmates. Her goal was to raise $1,000 in two months. Phoebe was determined to collect aluminum cans and recycle them for cash because that’s what she and her older sister did for fun. The then five-year-old decided the money raised would be donated to the SF Food Bank. She hand wrote letters and mailed them out to 150 family, friends and community members.
“Caaans? What are you talking about?” Albert said in disbelief. “I thought five cents a can, one thousand dollars. It was unrealistic. But Phoebe was adamant about it.”
At first, a few cans trickled in, then thousands showed up at the preschool’s door step. Checks and envelopes stuffed with cash were also jammed into the mailbox. The community got excited. Businesses matched donations.
Phoebe raised $3,736.30 by her deadline, enough for the S.F. Food Bank to feed nearly 18,000 people.
Albert held a party to celebrate the donation. Go Inspire Go (GIG) attended, created and posted a video. At the end of the video, GIG challenged the viewers with this statement: “If a 5-year-old could raise enough to feed nearly 18,000 people, what can YOU do? Please make a donation to the San Francisco Food bank, and tell them Phoebe sent you.”
Other media outlets shared Phoebe’s philanthropic project. GIG’s video went viral, and amassed more than 30,000 views. Six months later, the S.F. Food Bank wrote GIG, with an update: the money raised spiked to $20,202, or about 80,000 meals. Additionally GIG sent the video to Tyson Foods’ Hunger Relief Challenge, which led to the company’s donation of 15 tons of chicken. Now more than 120,000 meals could be served.
This inspirational story gets better! Before the end of the school year, Phoebe’s preschool protégés, Ethan, Emily and Sophia were moved by Phoebe’s philanthropic spirit.
“I like helping other people,” Ethan said. “I don’t like seeing hungry people,” explained Sophia. “We asked other people to help,” Emily said.
Albert said the three worked together relentlessly to write letters, count the change and smash dozens of bags full of cans. They even came up with their own campaign slogan, inspired by President Barack Obama: “Yes We Can!”
And yes, they did! The grand total so far: $5,479.05.
Thanks to Ethan, Emily, Sophia and Phoebe, their small altruistic act of goodness means more than 135,000 meals can be shared in their community.
If four five-year-olds could inspire 135,000 meals, what can YOU do this holiday season? As our little philanthropic phenoms will tell you — yes you can!
To make a donation to the San Francisco Food Bank, click here!
* Phoebe’s mother told me that First Lady, Michelle Obama wrote Phoebe a letter to thank her for her generosity. No telling if Mrs. Obama will reach out to Ethan, Emily and Sophia.