Patty Lindstrom was trying to make the time pass quicker on her family’s first driving spring break trip last March. While her family had moved to Naperville from the Peoria area two years ago, her children Sasha, 10, and Vaughn, 9, still missed their old friends.
“I said maybe we should brainstorm an activity we could do with our new friends,” said Lindstrom to her children, both students at Ranch View Elementary School.
That one suggestion, and a lot of free time in the car, led to Yes We Can, a food drive that gathered 8,919 pounds of food, all donated to Loaves & Fishes, DuPage Pads and Hesed House in Aurora this fall.
Lindstrom and her husband always tried to expose the children to acts of kindness and charity. Through their respective Scouting groups and church, the children knew about Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry and DuPage Pads. The challenge was creating something feasible. After a series of ideas, donating a can of soup was a viable option.
“Anyone can give a can of soup,” she said. “Even someone who doesn’t have much can give a can of soup.”
Some people gave more than a can of soup, especially when the Lindstrom family set up outside grocery stores. People would come out with their groceries and also multiple cans to donate.
But the drive didn’t stop there. A meeting with Mayor A. George Pradel brought on a slew of help. Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops joined in to help the cause. The mayor even accompanied the Lindstroms to several of the troop presentations. Prager Moving and Storage helped out so the Lindstroms didn’t have to use their garage to keep the food during the drive.
Office Max donated trucks. And several locations served as drop-off points for food, including the Naperville Development Partnership, the DuPage Children’s Museum, Safety Town, Daily Method and Fair Oaks Ford- Lincoln Ford.
“All of a sudden our little project had morphed,” Lindstrom said.
While she tapped into her marketing background to get it off the ground, she didn’t realize the domino effect they would see, especially in such a short time.
The mom learned a little about Sasha and Vaughn during the food drive, too. While she knew they had big hearts, the effort was proof they had learned from their parents.
“It showed me that they learned by example,” she said of watching NCTV17 interview them. “And how easily they could articulate what it meant to them.”
For the children, they became more aware of the realities of other people.
“Even though you have enough food,” Vaughn said, “some other people have troubles in their life and need help with it.”
While Sasha and Vaughn aren’t the only children to set out to help other people, they did raise an unexpected amount of food.
“Yes We Can collected more than 4 tons of food overall, and Loaves & Fishes was honored to be a beneficiary, especially with record numbers of people to feed,” said Jody Bender, director of community engagement at Loaves & Fishes.
“Vaughn and Sasha have demonstrated that youth is no barrier to helping others, and we are proud to be associated with them.”
With life lessons learned, there was an added bonus to the food drive: in the process, they also made new friends, not replacing their old friends, but adding to the friends they already had.
“We made a lot of new friends,” Sasha said. “My mom told me it would be a ripple effect.”
And so it was — not just for friends but with the food as well.
Stay tuned — they are planning another food drive for next year. With more time and planning, they hope the ripple effect will go even farther.