CARLSBORG — River Jensen is definitely on Santa’s “nice” list this year as she plans to donate collected toiletries to organizations that help the homeless for the third consecutive Christmas season.
River, 12, started collecting and donating basic toiletries to homeless shelters, food banks and individuals in Clallam County in 2016. She and her mother, Anna Jensen, volunteer at the Salvation Army in Port Angeles each Christmas Eve, and it was after her experience in 2016 that she got the idea to make donation bags.
“I like seeing their faces each year,” River said. “It makes me happy.”
The items in the gift bags usually include toiletries, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, new socks, feminine hygiene products and other items.
River and Anna collect the toiletries in their Sequim home and also have a storage unit where they keep the donated items. Anna said that last year they filled the whole storage unit.
River and her mother will collect toiletries from Sequim Walmart shoppers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this coming Sunday.
Anna said they will stop collecting items and start packaging them into gift bags on Monday.
“We’re hoping to get the community more involved,” Anna said.
“The main part of this project is to involve the community.”
Since River started collecting toiletries, some donors have saved items year-round so they are able to donate them to her each holiday season.
“They remember her,” Anna said.
Last year, the youngster donated 1,582 gift bags that were later distributed to organizations that help the homeless — including Salvation Army, Serenity House of Clallam County and the Sequim and Port Angeles food banks — as well as homeless individuals in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.
Anna and River are hoping to beat last years’ gift bag totals with a goal of 1,600 gift bags to give out this month.
“I hope we can make that,” Anna said.