On Thanksgiving of 2021, Newsome High School freshman Ashlyn Cook started a food drive at her neighborhood’s light display with Seeds of Hope, a charity and volunteer organization in Lithia. Cook knew one of her friends volunteered with Seeds of Hope and used her connection to contact the organization. With the guidance of Seeds of Hope, Cook was able to organize a food and money collection drive over the Christmas season.
“I wanted to give back to the community in some way,” said Cook about her decision to start a food drive.
Every year, about 36 houses in her neighborhood in FishHawk Ranch create a light show for their community, so Cook saw it as the perfect opportunity to set up a food collection stand. For anywhere between two to four hours each night, she would collect food as cars drove by between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The donations were given to Seeds of Hope to be distributed and, over the monthlong collection, she collected $4,200 and 30 bags of food for families.
“I learned organization and leadership skills and not to take over too much,” said Cook about the experience of leading a food drive.
Cook explained that she plans to make the food drive an annual event and will continue to lead it over her next three years in high school. After that, her brother and neighbors will take over to keep her tradition alive.
Seeds of Hope is a nonprofit charity organization that is led, in part, by students to bring hope and food to local families in need. With the help of its volunteers, it hands out boxes of food to the community and gives food to students on the weekend who rely on free school lunches.
“We hope to provide community service hours that not only touch the lives of people who are struggling but also touch the hearts of local students, which may spark an interest in lifelong pursuits of volunteer opportunities,” according to its website.