Three fourth-grade friends at Chautauqua Elementary have been engaged in a passion project for the past several months — assembling 100 backpacks for people without housing, stuffed with supplies including water bottles, first aid kits, personal care and hygiene items, N95 masks, and notes of encouragement.
The project was the brainchild of Roselyn Hinds, age 10, who thought of it as a way to use her “Helping Others” fund — $588 that she has amassed since the age of six, when she began to receive an allowance of $6 a week from her parents, Annette Messitt and Patrick Hinds.
The allowance, however, has always come with a caveat: $2 of it can be spent, $2 of it must be saved, and $2 more is for helping others.
About five months ago, Roselyn decided she’d like to spend that money by giving new backpacks, filled with supplies, to 100 people who were unhoused. Then, she started making a list of all the things she wanted to include in the backpack, as well as companies who could donate supplies to her project.
But most importantly, perhaps, Roselyn also recruited two of her best friends, Adeline Arthur and Aja Korbelarova, to help her bring the project to life. The three fourth-grade classmates — all students in Shanon Browne’s classroom at Chautauqua Elementary School — got busy.
Together, the girls joined together, during their playdates, to sit down to write letters to companies and nonprofits including Vashon Pharmacy, Thriftway and VashonBePrepared.
The first donation to the project — a box of 100 N95 masks from VashonBePrepared — was hand-delivered to Roselyn’s house by an unexpected visitor. Soon thereafter, a shipment of 100 blue Nalgene water bottles arrived, shipped all the way from New York by Nalg Nunc International. Roselyn’s dentist donated 140 toothbrushes and toothpaste to the project. A family friend also came through with 100 first aid kits, filled with tiny scissors, bandaids, and bandages.
Roselyn’s mother and father donated the drawstring backpacks for her project, and Roselyn purchased a number of items for the bags herself, including Ziploc bags, wet wipes, hair ties, wide and colorful combs, nail clippers, extra bandaids, and single use antibiotic ointment.
On Saturday, March 27, the girls gathered at Roselyn’s house for the culmination of the project — the day when all the donations and purchases were laid out on a large table, which they circled excitedly, stuffing the red backpacks with the items they had conjured, sparked by Roselyn’s eagerness to help others.
The philanthropic work party also had a giddy sleepover vibe, with plenty of giggles and excitement in the air, as a reporter arrived and took careful notes. Roselyn paused for a moment when the reporter asked her if she thought she had changed in the past year, and how being a fourth-grader was different from being a third-grader.
“I cut my hair,” Roselyn said, with a laugh, before thinking of something else.
“I watch the news more, and I pay more attention when my parents are talking about the news,” she said.
Roselyn, as well as her friends, said they had the same hope: that their backpack project would inspire other kids to do something to help others, too.
A week after the backpacks were stuffed, the girls delivered 20 of them to Vashon Food Bank, which had agreed to distribute them on the island.
Eighty more will soon go to agencies in Seattle that serve people without housing.