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Nov. 27

How a Kindergartener Got Her Schoolmates to Feed the Hungry

In honor of Family Volunteer Day, which was Nov. 23, Points of Light and Disney are recognizing families with the Daily Point of Light Award. Meet today's winning family, the Lees of Indiana, and nomimate someone in your community.

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The Lee family, parents James and Lindsy and from left,
Jayme, Jayda and Jaylin

When Jaylin Lee was in kindergarten, her mom read to her from the newspaper that the Salvation Army didn’t have enough food to give to families for the holidays.

Jaylin asked, “How can I help?”

Her mom, Lindsy, told her she could collect cans of food and suggested the slogan “One CAN Make a Difference.”

Jaylin loved the idea. Soon, with help from her parents, she was making flyers and traveling door to door to collect canned goods and other nonperishable food from neighbors. Before the year was out, Jaylin recruited 600 students from her elementary school to help with the food drive.

That was back in 2009. Today, One CAN Make a Difference is one of the largest food drives in Madison, Ind. Twenty-six local businesses partner with the program – including five stores that put out food collection bins – along with 10 schools and several local churches.

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Jaylin Lee collects cans for her
neighborhood food drive.

 

Jaylin, now 10, has recorded public service announcements that are played on two local radio stations and has addressed the city council and local schools about the problem of hunger in the community.

In 2013, One CAN Make a Difference had its most successful year, collecting more than 6,000 food items. Since she began the program, Jaylin has been joined in the effort by her sisters Jaymee, 8, and Jayda, 6. Lindsy says Jaylin works hundreds of hours each year on the project, and her sisters are now volunteering about half as much time.

“I don’t want to see anyone go hungry,” says Jaylin. “When I help people, it’s like a light at the end of the tunnel, and it keeps getting brighter and brighter. Groups thank us and tell us they couldn’t fill their food pantries without our work. I want more people to understand that a little help can make a difference. If we all work together, the difference just keeps on growing.”

Most of the food collected by One CAN Make a Difference is stored at the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army prepares some at its own kitchen, where it serves almost 400 meals each week. The rest is distributed to food banks, shelters and local churches with meal programs.

Jaylin, a fourth-grade honor student, stays busy year-round with One CAN Make a Difference, but the group’s main drive takes place for five days each November, and is kicked off at Madison’s annual Soup, Stew, Chili and Brew festival – a cooking and cider-making competition. The event draws around 2,000 local residents, many of whom bring food donations.

“It feels good to see what Jaylin and her sisters have done,” says Jaylin’s father, James, a police officer. “I feel I was born to serve. I’ve given as a Marine and now as a police officer. This is their way, and they’ve definitely shown their love of community. They’re so compassionate and they want to help everyone.”

Lindsy, who serves on the board of the local United Way, adds, “I’ve tried to teach my children by example. It’s a blessing to have kids who really get it.”

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