“Don’t lose hope!” “You are loved!”
These handwritten messages from River Jensen, along with many others, continue to be placed next to toiletries and other necessities as part of the 15-year-old’s annual Christmas Project.
Since she was 10, the now-Sequim High sophomore collected tens-of-thousands of compact hair products, teeth hygiene products, socks, gloves, hats and more to give to local agencies for in-need, vulnerable people.
“It feels even more important to do now with the combination of people in need and the deadly disease around,” she said.
Last year, Jensen and her family dropped off more than 1,100 toiletry bags between Serenity House, Salvation Army, Port Angeles Police Department and both the Sequim and Port Angeles Food Banks.
This year, she’ll do the same, and hopes to have bags for Sequim Police Department staff to hand out from their patrol vehicles.
Jensen’s mom Anna said the amount of bags they dropped off were less than past years but of a higher quality.
“I want to get it so there’s a lot of different stuff, and if it’s doable, if someone asks for double of something, I can say, ‘no problem,” Jensen said.
River plans to participate in the first Sequim Charitable Cornucopia Drive at Keller Williams Olympic, 244 W. Washington St.. from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13.
The event serves as a drive to collect nonperishable food, new children’s shoes, diapers, toys, winter coats and gear, and toiletries for various community agencies. In-person and drive-through donations will be accepted.
It also features free hot dogs, chips, soda, live music, face painting, popcorn, cotton candy and more.
In previous years, Jensen stood outside of Sequim Walmart seeking donations but was unable to because of pandemic in 2020. So this year, she and her family set up multiple ways to support the Christmas Project:
• a wish list on Amazon and a fundraiser on Facebook (email Annajensen99@gmail.com for links)
• drop-off donation bins at Keller Williams Olympic (244 W. Washington St.) and Spotlight Tanning (715 E. Fist St. Port Angeles)
• cash and checks also accepted at Keller Williams for toiletries
Specific items needed include: compact shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, hat, gloves, comb and other miscellaneous toiletries.
Each year, the individual bags of toiletries are distributed the week before Christmas.
“I hope to keep doing it,” Jensen said, as she ponders her post-high school options; she’s considering a career involving animals.
She said she wouldn’t be able to continue without community members’ support.
“Once I was stopped in Safeway and a lady knew who I was and told me she had some toiletries for me,” Jensen said. “It’s sweet she had stuff ready for me.”
People save toiletries throughout the year and donations were still coming in after Christmas last year, she said.
A few years ago, another woman told her she had saved the personalized notes River wrote and what they’ve meant to her.
In the few years she’s been able to meet and help those in-need, Jensen said she’s learned there are a lot of circumstances that make people homeless, and as for helping those in-need, she said she finds it doesn’t have to be much because “to them, it means a lot.”
Jensen started her giving journey at the age of 6, when she helped her mom serve Christmas meals in Port Angeles.
For more information about River’s Christmas Project, contact River’s mom Anna at Annajensen99@gmail.com.