CARLSBORG — A Carlsborg girl who handed out 1,282 gift bags full of toiletries to homeless people in Clallam County and Seattle is continuing the effort again this holiday season.
River Jensen, 11, hopes to make just as many of the bags this year and has already received a few boxes of supplies since starting her campaign Friday.
Each gift bag comes with a handwritten note from River offering encouragement and hope.
“I just was happy I could do this for them,” she said of her effort last year. “They are just on the streets and I don’t particularly like to know they don’t have a home.”
She said she needs to hold the drive again because she knows the travel-size shampoo bottles she handed out last year are not going to last two years.
“We’re going to do it again and again and again,” she said.
In handing out the bags last Christmas, she learned that not only were toiletries a big need, but people also needed socks, hats and gloves.
River said she’s still collecting toiletries this year, but is pushing to collect more socks, hats and gloves.
Her mother, Anna Jensen, said that’s what everyone said they needed.
“When we were in downtown Seattle, every single person asked if we had spare hats or gloves,” she said. “Every single person.”
Anna said one of the most memorable moments of last year’s effort was when she offered a couple dollars to a homeless man in Port Angeles.
That man remembered that she was River’s mother and showed her one of the cards River made.
It said “don’t lose hope.”
The man told her he carried the card to remind him that people care, she said.
“It was amazing that he kept that as his beacon of hope,” he said.
Anna said she is still in awe at how her daughter inspired the community to make last year’s effort a success.
“I was just thinking about this this morning, just how one person can inspire other people,” Anna said Sunday. “Her big heart fueled the fire and then we were able to help these people in need.”
River has remained humble, Anna said, despite being featured in newspapers and TV, and being nominated as Sequim’s Citizen of the Year last year.
River said she couldn’t have done the project without the help of her mother.
“She set up all the places where I pick everything up,” she said. “She was a really big help last year.”
The plan again this year is to distribute gift bags at the Salvation Army in Port Angeles and food banks and pantries in Port Angeles and Sequim.
There are a few ways that people who want to help can donate.
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; Olympic Mattress Direct, 13 Ruths Place E., Sequim; and Dungeness Kids Co., 163 W. Washington St., Sequim.
Monetary donations are also accepted at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Toiletries.
River’s progress can be tracked on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RiverJensen06/
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].