One of the purported miracles of Jesus during his ministry 2,000 years ago was that he fed 5,000 people with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. In 2010, one 5-year-old in San Francisco with a big heart asked her parents a simple question after seeing a person on the street holding a sign asking for food. Two months later, Phoebe raised enough money to feed 18,000 people, according to The Huffington Post.
The inspiration for Phoebe’s project occurred when she asked her parents how she could help the hungry people of her city. They told her about the food bank. After a discussion with her day care teacher on the same subject, she decided she was going raise $1,000 for the San Francisco Food Bank.
Phoebe’s father taught her and her sister that aluminum cans can be traded for cash; the family took part in this activity every weekend. Phoebe’s fundraising idea took off from there.
A Simple Request
With the help of her parents and classmates, Phoebe started a letter-writing campaign. The little girl wrote 150 letters to family, friends, neighbors, and alumni of her day care center. All she asked was that everyone send her their spare aluminum cans, which would likely be thrown away in the trash. Phoebe asked people to drop off cans at the day care. She got 50 responses.
Some people brought cans, but then total strangers began dropping off money and checks to the small Victorian-style house that housed a gaggle of kids. Suddenly, people offered matching grants, providing dollar-for-dollar donations based on the amounts of money raised by the project. The 5-year-old responded personally to every single donation, regardless of its size. Phoebe noted that even two cans equals 10 cents, so she understood that thousands of cans could add up to larger sums.
The Final Tally
The final tally for Phoebe’s project after two months was $3,736.30, which was enough to feed 17,800 people. Phoebe took in 4,497 cans at five cents each for $224.85. That total was matched by four donations, which amounted to $899.40. The cans alone earned the San Francisco Food Bank $1,124.95.
People dropped off cans underneath the door of the day care center, while some left cash donations in the mailbox. Perhaps even more important is the lesson that Phoebe taught her classmates. Many of the children opened their own piggy banks to donate money to the food bank.
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Mark Russell, Phoebe’s dad, called his daughter “awesome” and stated how proud he is of her for grasping the idea of how much one idea could benefit complete strangers. Kathy Russell, Phoebe’s mom, noted that her daughter learned the lesson of how small things add up to large totals over time, instilling principles of saving money and earning for future projects.
Phoebe’s day care teacher, Kathleen Albert, noted how the entire class jumped into the project. Albert was skeptical about cans making a difference in people’s lives, but like many adults who doubt the power of one little girl, the teacher was wrong. On top of that, Phoebe never once complained about missing play times to write thank-you letters.
Phoebe’s story inspired dozens of people to give to those in need, especially during the Great Recession in America, a time when people needed help the most. A simple idea was turned into action, and that action turned small aluminum cans into an oversized gift of nearly $4,000 for some of San Francisco’s most vulnerable citizens. Imagine what all of us could do when applying those same principles!Whizzco