While most 5-year-old girls would fancy princesses, dolls and dress-up shoes for their birthday party, Isabel Taylor asked for something of a different sort this year.
For her fifth birthday party, she asked guests to bring food instead of gifts.
“All the persons don’t have food,” explained a breathless Isabel after gliding down a slide in the backyard of her parent’s Medina home. “Everybody at the food bank needs food.”
Birthday guests brought to the party a total of about 75 pounds of food, which Isabel and mother, Kris, delivered to the Hopelink organization.
Hopelink’s six Eastside food banks offer food to individuals and families who need help, as well as schools, religious institutions and community centers.
“I know the food banks have a hard time in the summer,” said Kris, who came up with the idea to have guests bring food.
A project that her husband, Steve, worked on also brought it to mind.
He just completed an executive leadership program at Seattle University, where his team was asked to pick a community project to work on. Steve and his group got involved with a Renton food bank at the Salvation Army, picking up food from the bank and delivering it to homebound clients.
“My husband’s a pilot, and one of his clients who surprised him the most was a retired Alaska Airlines pilot,” Kris said. “It never occurred to him that someone who had a profession like that could have a need for this kind of service. That had an impact on him.”
Wanting to show her daughter how lucky she is to not have this type of need, Kris brought Isabel over to the kitchen pantry. She explained that when they go to the pantry, there is always food there. However, some kids go to the refrigerator and there is nothing there.
Kris asked Isabel whether she would mind if guests brought food instead of gifts and assured her that she would get plenty of presents from mom and dad.
It took Kris a couple times to explain the concept of hunger, but when Isabel finally got it, it made her sad.
“So she was really happy to do something for someone else and she was OK with not getting stuff from her little friends,” Kris said.
She was also overwhelmed with the response they got. She figured people would bring a can or a couple boxes of macaroni and cheese, but everyone showed up with bags of groceries.
Kris hopes that Isabel will grow up knowing that she’s lucky to have the things she does and develop compassion and awareness for others who don’t.
“I hope to instill a sense of that in her so she will reach out in doing things for other people, whether with resources or time,” she added.
Carrie Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-453-4290.