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Fifth-grader organizes a clothing drive to benefit those less fortunate in the community

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Crooked River Elementary School fifth-grader Dylanne Smith, left, sorts through clothing donations with her mom, Krystin Smith. Dylanne has organized a clothing drive at her school to benefit the Family Access Network, which distributes items to families in need.

It all began with a simple assignment.

Crooked River Elementary School teacher Amber Freeman asked her students to write about their fifth-grade goals.

"One of my goals is I wanted to help my school help the community," says 10-year-old Dylanne Smith.

Well, that's a nice thing for a fifth-grader to write.

But not only did Dylanne write it, she sprang into action and is now heading up a school clothing drive to benefit those less fortunate in the community.

"I know there are a lot of kids that are going to need clothes this winter if we have a winter anything like last year," Dylanne said.

Late last week, her mom, Krystin Smith, shared how it all began.

"She was out sick last week for two days, and the second day, she came out of her bedroom and she said, 'Mom, I want to do a clothes drive.'"

Dylanne explained to her mom that there are too many cold kids in the winter, and she needed to do a clothes drive at her school. She had already written out a plan and made some posters.

"We need to get a meeting set up," Krystin told her daughter. "Initially, we were trying to figure out how she and I could do it."

After flag football practice one day, she told her coach, Adam Stefanek, her idea. Stefanek, who is also the assistant principal at CRE, suggested getting the school Family Access Network advocate involved. He arranged a meeting.

"She and I worked together to make a plan and a proposal, and so we went into that meeting, and she shared her proposal and answered questions," Krystin said. "She just amazed me. She does not have a shy bone in her body."

"Dylanne had a very well-thought-out plan," said CRE Principal Cheri Rasmussen. "This included advertising through various media sources, collecting large boxes from Sears as well as small boxes for each classroom."

Last Tuesday, Dylanne shared her clothing drive contest plan with all 600 CRE students during morning assembly. The plan was to have a clothing drive contest between the CRE classrooms. Mr. Stefanek would provide donuts to the winning class after the drive concluded Nov. 1.

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Dylanne Smith sorts through donated clothing at her school.
The Family Access Network, a program unique to Central Oregon, makes sure a child or parent is connected to essential services such as food, shelter, heating, health care and clothing. Advocates, who are based in schools, link children and families to critical basic need services with the goal of keeping children healthy and in school.

Vanessa Nolen is the FAN advocate for Crooked River and Barnes Butte elementary schools. Teachers and staff refer families to Nolen, who then reaches out to help them meet their needs.

"FAN is always in need of clothing, shoes, socks and underwear," Nolen said. "These are items that a lot of times folks have to give."

Dylanne also encourages the public to donate clothing. She has left collection boxes near the office at Crooked River Elementary.

Nolen will be in charge of cleaning the donations, and Dylanne and her sister, fourth-grader Harper Smith, their mom, and some of her classmates will help organize the clothing.

"The kids have been super supportive. They're really excited," Krystin said. "They volunteered to help sort or whatever they can do."

The children's clothing will remain in the FAN Closet at CRE for students that attend both CRE and Barnes Butte. Nolen said the other items will be donated to The Loft at Crook County Middle School, where FAN Advocate Traci Peterson will manage it. Adult clothing will go to the Church of Christ for the free clothing give away that takes place each Thursday. Infant clothing will be donated to Pregnancy Resource Center and the Church of Christ as well.

After just a few days, more than 300 clothing items have been donated. One classroom has already collected 102 clothing items. Dylanne's class has 72.

"At this point, school and community support and donations have been very successful," Rasmussen said, adding that Dylanne is quite a young lady. "I am very impressed with Dylanne's thoughtfulness for others who are in need, and her perseverance for such a large project."

Nolen said FAN is honored to be in partnership with this amazing young lady.

"I have never met anyone so young and full of compassion. Dylanne's clothing drive will change the lives of so many in our community," Nolen said. "Dylanne, in my eyes, is an angel in disguise. With one gesture, you can change a life. One person at a time, you can change the world. One day at a time, we can change everything."

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