River’s Christmas project donates gift bags to the homeless

Carlsborg local River Jensen knows exactly how to show her Christmas spirit this year.

The 10-year-old has been volunteering at the Salvation Army in Port Angeles with her mother, Anna Jensen, every Christmas Eve since she was 6. While they normally hand out food to the homeless, this year, River chose to make her contribution a little more personal.

After volunteering at the Salvation Army last year, River decided she wanted to make gift bags full of toiletries and hygiene products to distribute to the homeless this year.

She started collecting items from family members last summer and from there her project took off.

Her mother, Anna, said it was really cool how they were able to get the community involved. She put an ad up on her Facebook and people started sharing it on their pages, while local businesses offered to have supplies donated to their stores.

River has been collecting hygiene products for the past three months and also has raised $1,600 from a GoFundMe account to buy more items.

She put the bags together with her mother and their friends, and made a total of 1,283 gift bags to give out.

“My favorite part is I get to see the smiles on their faces,” River said.

She explained that the homeless don’t have much and that is why they put items like socks, hats and toiletries in the gift bags.

River already has distributed 300 gift bags in Seattle at Pioneer Square last Saturday, Dec. 17, and donated 100 bags with basic toiletries to food banks in Sequim and Port Angeles.

Her mother, Anna, said it makes her “super proud” to see her daughter taking on a project like this at such a young age.

“It makes me feel like I must have done something right,” Anna said, adding that just to encourage her daughter through the whole experience has been pretty amazing.

River will continue to distribute the gift bags this week starting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at the Salvation Army in Port Angeles and finish Saturday, Dec. 24, on Christmas Eve.

Reach Erin Hawkins at ehawkins@sequimgazette.com.

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