Donor Spotlights

We are so appreciative of the support we've received from community partners and local businesses in response to COVID-19.

COR Church of Kirkland

We are so appreciative of the support we’ve received from community partners and local businesses in response to COVID-19.

One of these organizations, COR Church of Kirkland, has not only given an initial gift of over $6,000 but has also committed to a generous monthly contribution in support of our Pantry Packs program. Pantry Packs provides weekend food packs to students who are experiencing food-insecurity.

When asked what inspired their donation to support Pantry Packs, Kalvin Kim of COR Church said:

“We love how Pantry Packs provides services that not only help local members of the community but also encourages people to take action.”

Kalvin Kim of COR Church
COR Church

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the program has had to significantly alter their procedures while simultaneously meeting the need of up to 50% increased food pack distribution to students. Thanks to donors like COR Church, we have been able to make sure that all students in the district have the nourishment they need.

“Now more than ever, as thousands of people have lost wages and jobs, we’re committed to helping our church members and local community families and children in need, specifically those who face significant food insecurity,” added Kalvin Kim.

Visit corkirkland.org to learn more about their organization and upcoming events. We are so grateful for this partnership and deeply value their current and ongoing support.

Vanesha Hari and Varshini Hari

Teens Making a Difference in the Community during the COVID-19 Pandemic

LWSD students and sisters, Vanesha Hari and Varshini Hari co-founded a nonprofit initiative called Joys of Giving which was established to bring hope, opportunity, and resources to those in need.

​When COVID-19 struck our community, they saw the need to raise funds to provide food, mental health support, and educational opportunities. They learned that the Lake Washington Schools Foundation would become the perfect fit and have directed $2,000 to support the LWSD community! Funds raised will help support programs such as Balance in Mind, a program that raises awareness about youth mental health and offers resources to help kids grow healthy and resilient; Find Your Fit, a program that helps support students on their college journey; and Pantry Packs, a program that feeds students experiencing food-insecurity.

Vanesha Hari

These girls strongly believe that in each one of us, there is unlimited potential, unique talent and together have a civic responsibility to lift others up.

​This powerful duo has not only raised money for LWSF, they have raised a total of over $12,000 in support of several nonprofits in the area including Seattle Public Schools where they hosted a fundraiser and baked over 800 cookies, raising $4,200 to help underprivileged children. Additionally, since they are passionate about fading the gender disparity in STEM, they have spent 300+ hours mentoring and volunteering with outreach activities geared towards girls and underserved minorities.

Recently, Vanesha was nominated by her teacher for the prestigious “Community Service Award” which is only given once a year and was selected out of her entire school! This award was a recognition of exemplary service in the community with the Joys of Giving initiative and her traits of compassion and empathy displayed in school.

Together, they imagine a world that every individual from all walks of life has equal opportunity and can access the profound power of education and technology. They believe in transforming and making an impact where they see the greatest needs with a focus on education equity and underserved communities. Through their non-profit, Joys of Giving, they do just that and more.

Varshini Hari

Thank you Vanesha and Varshini for supporting local students, especially during these challenging and uncertain times. May your story inspire others to be just as caring as you are!

To learn more about their non-profit, Joys of Giving, visit joysofgiving.org.

Sanika

Having Fun and Making a Big Difference Serving Her Community

Sanika, a 7th grader in Lake Washington School District, grew up camping and spending time outdoors with her family. She enjoys hiking, snowshoeing and has even tried her hand at cider making!

As a student at Environmental and Adventure School, she participated in the community service activities that are offered at the school and discovered how much she enjoyed giving back to her community. She realized that, “You don’t always need to make a large change in your community to make a difference.”

Sanika Datar

Last year on Earth Day, she found the perfect way to combine her love of the outdoors and her desire to give back to the community. Sanika organized activities for her younger sister’s preschool friends to show them things that they can do to help take care of the planet’s natural resources. She also participated in tree planting and trail clearing events.

In the fall of 2019, Sanika learned of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program and decided to apply. In February, she learned that she had been selected as a State Honoree. In addition to being in the running for a scholarship, she had also won a trip to Washington DC! She learned a few weeks later the bittersweet news that the awards ceremony was being cancelled due to COVID-19 – bittersweet because Prudential had also decided to award all of the State Honorees with a scholarship and a $2,500 grant toward a non-profit organization of their choice.

​Sanika had heard about Lake Washington Schools Foundation at school and knowing that we support students with the Pantry Packs Program and Reach for Success Grants in addition to the initiatives LWSF has recently taken towards the relief from the impact of COVID-19 within the Lake Washington School District community, she decided that she was going to direct the $2,500 grant to LWSF! We are thrilled that she selected our organization and very thankful for the generosity of Prudential for funding this program!

After getting to know Sanika, we have also learned that she is quite an accomplished young lady! Among other things, she was recognized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as an “Outstanding Patriotic Spokesman for our Youth” in their 2019-2020 Patriots Pen Youth Essay Contest and took first place at the 2019 Shoreline STEM Festival.

When asked what advice she would give to other students in the district she replied:

“Don’t be afraid to try something new. It can be something small, it will make a difference!”

Sanika Datar

Thank you, Sanika for all that you do. May your story inspire others to follow in your footsteps!

Read more about Sanika and the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Fighting child hunger with a sticker and a birthday

Aly, an elementary school student in the Lake Washington School District, was inspired by friends who had birthday parties where they asked for toys to donate to kids in need rather than gifts for themselves.

She began her philanthropic journey at her 8th birthday party where she hosted a diaper drive for Eastside Baby Corner. She did it again for her 9th birthday party and then became curious of other ways to help kids her age.

She discovered Pantry Packs, a local program that feeds children experiencing food-insecurity to cover weekend and school break meals. Not only was it a program that helped kids, it helped kids right at her school. It became the perfect fit.

Aly

​By the time her 10th birthday came around, she wanted to add a creative touch to her fundraising efforts so she designed her very own “Stop Hunger” sticker that was offered to friends and family in exchange for a donation through a Facebook fundraiser. She was excited to see that her efforts raised $685 to feed students right in her community!

​Her kindhearted efforts didn’t stop there as she is active in several school activities including Student Council and has participated in Jump Rope for Heart and Pennies for Patients for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. You go, girl!

Thank you, Aly for making a difference in all the ways that you do for our community. May your story inspire others to give back, just like you!

Science Infinity

For the Students, of the Students, by the Students

This school year, we were honored to receive a generous gift from a student-led organization known as Science Infinity. As their tagline goes, “For the students, of the students, by the students,” this group is dedicated to setting up students for success in the sciences, from high school competitions such as Science Bowl and Science Olympiad to higher educational goals and to help underserved youth.

Whether it be climate change, or disease detection and prevention, or efficient water purification techniques, these high-school students are passionate about making an impact on the world through science.

​In addition to supporting those who are interested in science endeavors, they recognize that not every student has their basic needs met to focus on their education which is why they chose to dedicate their donation to Pantry Packs, powered by LWSF, a program that provides weekend packs of food for more than 900 students each week who are identified as experiencing food-insecurity. LWSF is among one of several other organizations that Science Infinity has donated to, having raised more than $35,000 in support of education.

Science Infinity check

“We are proud to be able to donate to and help the school district that has helped us grow so much during our 12 years here.”

Arpit Ranasaria, leader of Science Infinity

Thank you, Science Infinity, for helping us bridge the gap between what students have and what they need to succeed.

Girl Power

Girls Changing the World; One Rafiki and Pantry Pack at a Time

We were excited to interview Carrie Steedly, a facilitator of the group known as Girl Power. Girl Power is a part of the WE organization which started over 20 years ago with two Canadian brothers wanting to empower local youth and encourage them to make a difference in their community and abroad.

The WE Girl Power group consists of a few parent leaders, however, the girls do the vast majority of the work. They started out as a girl scout troop which then grew into Girl Power, consisting of 10 middle school students and one high school student. These WE service groups are given the opportunity to support a cause at a local and global level. For their global cause, they sell Rafikis which are beaded bracelets created by women in Kenya known as “mamas.” These Rafikis are sold for $10 where $5 goes to the “mamas” to benefit their families and livelihood, and the second $5 (chosen by the group) goes to support education in India.

As for the local cause, the girls chose a program very close to home. “Pantry Packs, we realized … it was just something that they already cared about,” Carrie said, “like I say to these girls, it’s just good to help in an area that you already have passion for.”

For their local cause, they felt it to be a no-brainer to support Pantry Packs as the girls had a lot of history with the program. Carrie added, “Picking an area to serve that you already have a heart for – that’s something you already care about, it just makes it easier… that service just comes easy. It’s fun because you care about the program so much.” Pantry Packs has a lot of its history at Wilder Elementary when the cause operated on a much smaller scale. These girls all attended Wilder and have been active in support of the program ever since. It was also a rather tangible way for them to help right here in their own community.

Eighth grader, Girl Power member said, “Pantry Packs was my first exposure to service, and has really impacted how I️ live and view my life. Pantry Packs planted a seed in my mind at a young age, that there are always ways we can help even if it is packing one bag full of food. Pantry Packs helps to raise awareness about social issues for students at a young age, which is key to creating an adult that is aware and accepting of those around them.”

Girl Power would put on their own all-day food drives where the girls would take shifts, gathering around 1,000 pounds of food. Yet their day didn’t stop there as when they got home, they’d assemble the packs of food by organizing what food items go where. They would learn what’s missing from some of the packs and either apply cash donations for the missing food items or inform the Pantry Packs team of what’s needed to complete the bag. These girls truly grasp the meaning behind Pantry Packs.

Another 8th grader member said, “I think this program is needed in our community because young kids need nutrition and food to be able to have enough energy and motivation to get through the school day. It also provides a huge stress relief from the parents who have to work everyday and these packs probably help them feed their child and family a lot easier.”

After doing their own food drives, the next step for these girls was to see Pantry Packs on a much bigger scale by attending a “packing party” where the Pantry Packs leadership team and the many volunteers gather to put hundreds of packs together.

Carrie figured this was a huge stepping stone, saying, “it really got the girls talking…and it’s been really awesome to see the girls put themselves in the shoes of the organizers of Pantry Packs to think like, how do you do that? How do they handle that in a huge scale?”

After all, Pantry Packs is indeed a volunteer-led organization, primarily ran by three ladies. The group of girls were able to pack 300 bags from their own food drives but Pantry Packs issues about 850 packs a week!

Recently, an 8th grader group member collected food for a holiday party. She said, “My friends and I have food drives, with the help of some adults, we collect a lot of food. I knew that Pantry Packs needs a lot of food every week and I want to collect as much food as possible. I thought that I could collect even more food by collecting some at my holiday party.”

After all of their hard work, these girls get to celebrate by going to a celebratory event called WE Day, and the only way to get in is by committing to one local and one global cause. It’s a day of celebration where thousands of youth gather to see the value of their work. At WE Day, you get to hear from inspirational speakers and international music stars like Macklemore!

But really, the stars are these incredible youth service groups.

Carrie looks forward to these girls branching out when they reach high school where they can form their own groups and be their own leaders, continuing to follow their passion of making a difference one way or another. Even Carrie’s own daughter operates her own service group at her high school where she’s the point person to contact.

Carrie said, “what we want the girls to do is to take on these charities, and these causes to their own heart and really just make it a part of their lives.”

​Another Girl Power member added, “I️ want to thank Pantry Packs for kick-starting my love for service.”

Thank you, Girl Power! Your service goes above and beyond. We hope that your group will inspire other youth to be just as giving as you are.

To learn more about the WE organization, visit we.org.

Powerhouse Philanthropy: daughter Bailey and mother Kim

Giving Everyone the Space to Breathe

“I think my friend is homeless.”

Bailey, then just a little girl, spoke out of the blue. Her mother, Kim, replied, “What do you mean?”

“I think they’re sleeping in their car. Mom, do you think they can stay at our house sometimes, just so that they can have breath?”

Kim didn’t hesitate. “Of course they can come over and stay with us, and get breath.”

“Breath” is a bit of shorthand between mother and daughter. In their household, “breath” can describe a space where one can manage some of life’s obstacles. Kim says that sometimes it’s about “finding your breath for a moment, and that will help you navigate whatever is overwhelming you.”

The Little Girl with a Big Heart

Another day, Bailey saw a food drive advertised at one of Kirkland’s programs. Immediately, she pointed it out to her mother.

“Mom, we need to sign up!”

Kim being Kim, replied, “Of course we do.”

Daughter Bailey and mother Kim

​Together, mother and daughter signed up to collect food for a 2-hour time period. At the food drive, a gentleman with good intentions asked Bailey, “Do you know what you’re collecting food for?”

“Well my friend is sleeping in their car with their family,” Bailey said. “I know that they go to Hopelink for food and I want to make sure there’s enough food on the shelves through winter.”

The man stood there shocked with his jaw dropped and ended up donating two bags of food. After hearing her daughter’s response, Kim said that it was “an eye-opener that she really got it.”

Parties and Caroling with a Philanthropic Twist

Bailey also noticed that kids at her school got food in their backpacks on Fridays from Pantry Packs, a program that discreetly supplies food to students who may not have enough food at home for when school is out.

Naturally, mother and daughter were drawn to help.

Kim and Bailey started participating in “packing parties” where they helped put together the packs of food before being distributed to the schools. This program spoke to their hearts. Motivated to find ways to expand her reach and help as many children as possible, Kim created her very own Facebook fundraising page to raise funds for Pantry Packs.

When her 50th birthday rolled around, Kim rented out a local senior center to celebrate, but what was the ticket to get in? A birthday present for Kim? No, in fact guests were required to either bring a cash donation or food item to benefit Pantry Packs. Overall, she received approximately $1,400 in cash donations and 300 pounds of food.

Bailey also found a creative way to give back recently by going Christmas caroling with some friends around the neighborhood to collect food. In one hour, about 50 pounds were collected for a school food drive.

Reflecting on kids not having enough food, Kim said, “How can you think? How can you learn? How can you grow without having just the basic nutrition?”

…and these two keep on going.

They carry Subway gift cards, socks, toothbrushes, and the like so they can hand them to someone in need in a moment’s notice. Kim herself is also known to stop at drive-thrus to get a meal for another in need. However, she will make sure there is some nutritional value such as adding a banana or salad.

Kim says, “If there is something that maybe takes care of the whole person a little bit better and allows more of a personal touch, then I kind of prefer that.”

The giving from these two is endless. On Wednesday nights, Kim helps prepare food for approximately 50-100 people at a church. And it’s not just for people experiencing homelessness; everyone is welcome. In fact, local construction workers like to join. You’ll also find Bailey interacting with the kids, acting as a recreation leader.

Kim says, “I love that meal because it puts everybody there on a level playing field. It’s just people who are eating dinner.”

It seems that Kim and Bailey’s generosity is never-ending, and it all began with Bailey’s personal connection to her friend. Kim recalls, “It really started because my daughter saw that she had a friend who was in need and she wanted to make sure that her friend and other kids in that situation were supported and cared for.”

So what are Kim and Bailey’s plans for the future? They want to continue supporting Pantry Packs and participate in more packing parties. Kim also wants to do another online fundraiser this spring.

Kim reflects on why she gives back.

“Our people are important,” she says. “Every single person in our community is important.”

A big applause to Kim and Bailey for their relentless efforts in helping the many people around them. We hope that their story inspires others to reach out so that they too, can have “breath.”

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