Heart for the homeless: Sequim youth continues grassroots donation drive

This winter, a Sequim girl is once again seeing to it that those without a home this holiday season are getting some essentials and some love along with it.

River Jensen, a sixth-grader at Sequim Middle School, drew the community’s attention last year when she collected items for almost 1,300 bags to hand out to various organizations that help homeless on the Olympic Peninsula and beyond.

This year, Jensen and company set the bar a bit higher, aiming for 1,500 bags that will be distributed through organizations such as Serenity House, the Salvation Army, TAFY (The Answer For Youth) and local food banks.

Following a bag-stuffing “party” at Eastern Hills Community Church on Dec. 9, Jensen and a number of community volunteers packed 1,536 bags full of items, River’s mother Anna said.

“I received a few more donations afterwards and have been putting together bags,” Anna Jensen said. “I have about 30 or so more to put together. But we definitely hit our goal of 1,500, so that makes us pretty happy.”

The Sequim youth and family oversaw a campaign that put collection boxes for items such as socks, gloves, soap bars, hairspray, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hats and more at various local businesses.

Along with the items, Jensen includes hand-written notes of support such as, “You are loved.”

Those bags will go out to local homeless advocate groups and Seattle’s Pioneer Square starting this week.

River and her mother had volunteered at the Salvation Army in Port Angeles each Christmas Eve since she was 6. The Sequim youth got the idea to make donation bags last year to make her contribution a little more personal.

The effort didn’t go unnoticed: Jensen was selected a finalist for the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Citizen of the Year.

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