CARLSBORG — A 10-year-old Carlsborg girl is making more than 500 gift bags that she plans to distribute to the homeless in Port Angeles and Sequim close to Christmas.
Each of the gift bags will come with a variety of toiletries and hygiene products and a handwritten note from the girl, River Jensen.
She came up with the idea while volunteering at the Salvation Army in Port Angeles with her mother. She said she noticed that some clients smelled bad.
“I said they were kind of stinky,” River said. “My mom said they didn’t have shampoo and stuff and maybe we can do something about it.”
For the past three months, she has been collecting hygiene products that she plans to distribute at food banks in Port Angeles and Sequim, as well as the Salvation Army.
In the gift bags are shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps and body wash, floss and socks.
She is also collecting money through a GoFundMe account to help buy more supplies. As of Thursday, the site had amassed $280 toward a $500 goal. It will all be used to buy more supplies, even if that means making more than 500 gift bags, River said.
In each of the gift bags will be a handwritten note from River, which says things such as “Don’t lose faith. You are loved,” or “You are still loved. Don’t lose hope.”
It’s her project and her parents are just along for the ride, said her mother, Anna Jensen.
“It’s pretty amazing just to see her heart. She is so generous,” Anna said. “The more I can help her succeed on this project makes me feel good as a parent.”
River’s project has grown into a community project, she said. Businesses in Port Angeles and Sequim have donated to the effort, and several people have donated money.
“People keep throwing in good ideas, like the socks,” said. “Watching this little idea of hers expand and involve so many people makes me a proud mommy.”
River has written letters to civic organizations in Port Angeles and Sequim in hopes of garnering more donations.
River has pledged to donate 100 bags to each of the food banks in Port Angeles and Sequim and hand them out at the Salvation Army a week before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, the plan is to walk around — with supervision — and hand out the gift bags to people in need, her mother said.
“We’ve talked about making it a family thing,” she said.
River has been volunteering with the Salvation Army since she was 6. Her mother said it’s always been a Christmas tradition to serve food to the homeless before opening presents.
Those who want to support River’s project can drop off donations at Full Moon Candle Co., 609 W. Washington St., Suite 13, Sequim; Spotlight Tanning &Apparel, 715 E. First St., Port Angeles; and Olympic Mattress Direct, 13 Ruths Place E., Sequim.
Monetary donations are also accepted at www.gofundme.com/rivers-christmas-project-2vybhvg.
“She’s always been really big-hearted and wanting to help people,” River’s mother said. “This year, we have the means, time and ability to do it.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].