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Book queen feeds young minds at the food bank
Whenever Mount Si senior Malia Arenth volunteered at a local food bank, she would often see
parents come in with their youngsters in tow. During those brief visits Arenth
realized then that those children needed more than food in their tummies _
they needed resources to feed their minds.
Since March 1999, Arenth has collected and distributed more than
1,000 books to children in the Valley as part of her Feed the Kids Book Drive.
The project grew from her need to fulfill 15 hours of community service for
the Mount Si High Honor Society. But the senior knew she wanted to do
more than just office work to fulfill the requirement.
"I wanted to do something worthwhile," Arenth said. "And I'm the
biggest bookworm you'll ever meet and my parents read to me from the time
I was born."
She wanted to share her love for reading with other children
whose parents might not be able to afford to buy any books. So she partnered
with Mount Si Helping Hands, a community-run food bank at the North
Bend Community Church, and hands out books to struggling families at
least once a month.
But Arenth wasn't sure if her pilot program would soar or crash and
burn. She was afraid that the parents might think of the book drive as an
intrusion on their mission to feed their families.
"At first I felt like it might seem condescending because they come
in there for food," she said. "And I was afraid that people would find it rude."
But, the children's bright faces tell a different story.
"Usually the books are new-ish and the kids just sit down and
start reading. Or, they might be shy and hide behind their parents and hold
on tight to the book," Arenth said.
"It's really cool."
Ken McCarty, the Mount Si Helping Hands coordinator, has also
seen the children's reaction when they receive the unexpected gift.
"These children very seldom get extra things so they're pleased
and very happy," he said. "And just getting something means a lot to them."
But these children are receiving much more than a few paper
pages between cardboard covers, McCarty said. The more important gift they
get is the love for reading.
"It's particularly a good program because it encourages the young
kids to read," he said. "The children
are from poor families who might not have books around the house."
"So the younger ones are more ready for school and it encourages
the older ones to read," McCarty added.
Feed the Kids Book Drive aims to supply books for all ages from
the huge chunky cardboard books for toddlers all the way through the
"chapter books" for young adults. Book
donations can be dropped off at Mount Si High, St. Clare Episcopal Church
in Snoqualmie or at Fall City Farms.
And though Arenth will be ending her senior year at Mount Si
High in the next several weeks, the Colorado-bound college student hopes
that the book drive will continue.
"We have enough people to help so hopefully it'll keep going,"
Arenth said. "It's not dependent on my being around, but we need people who
are willing to hand out books."
Mount Si Helping Hands is open on Wednesdays, from 9:30
a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information about Feed
the Kids Book Drive, call (425) 222-7930. For more information about the
food bank, call (425) 888-0096. Volunteers and donations are needed for