Girl, 10, helps in her own way

September 27, 1995|By AMY L. MILLER | AMY L. MILLER,SUN STAFF

The thought of children going to bed hungry troubled Jamie Ridgely.

So the 10-year-old Manchester Elementary student decided to tackle the problem.

Over the past two weeks -- with the help of neighbors and schoolmates -- Jamie has collected more than 640 food items for Carroll County Food Sunday.

"When I was real little, my mom used to tell me to eat everything on my plate because there were kids starving," said Jamie, whose donations will be picked up tomorrow morning by Thomas Canon, Food Sunday's director.

"Maybe if all the kids would help, we could wipe hunger off the earth."

Initially, Jamie was touched by television advertisements asking people to sponsor children in developing nations and wanted to join one of those programs. But her parents, Bryan and Sharon Ridgely, pointed out that children in Carroll County probably could use her help.

From that, "Help Feed a Child in Need" was born. Pulling her red wagon with her toy poodle, Aladdin, riding shotgun, Jamie visited all of her neighbors to ask for donations.

When she had exhausted the territory she could cover on foot, her parents drove her to other Manchester neighborhoods.

"She's a tremendous example of what one person can do," Mr. Canon said. "In the current political climate [of less government help], we're going to need more people like her."

Carroll County Food Sunday is feeding about 300 families a week, Mr. Canon said. Aside from a small government contribution, the volunteer organization is supported by donations from churches, individuals and other organizations, he said.

"Essentially, we're supported by the good people of Carroll County giving for the needy of Carroll County," Mr. Canon said. "Carroll County people tend to take care of their own."

During her two-week drive, Jamie also received donations from several local food stores and sat outside Miller's Market in Manchester for three hours Saturday, garnering 234 food items for her drive.

Miller's also left a register open for Jamie Saturday so that she could run in and buy food with the money people gave her.

Sometimes, people who looked the least likely to give would come out of the store with items for her drive, Jamie said.

Others would stand and talk, like the man who donated four bags of candy because they were something he would have liked as a child.

"She was so astonished that someone would spend $12 on candy for her drive," Mrs. Ridgely said.

Manchester Elementary Principal Robert Bruce also was supportive, her parents said, allowing Jamie and two friends, all fifth-graders, to sit in the lobby each morning collecting canned goods.

Jamie and the two girls, Jessica Ruby and Emily Sampson, made announcements on the public address system each morning and visited classrooms to tell them about the program.

"We're very proud of her," Mrs. Ridgely said. "I knew she had it in her to do something like this, but I never thought it would be so big. I give her a lot of credit. It's amazing what one 10-year-old can do."

To increase donations, Jamie decided to give a homemade pin to give each person participating in her food drive.

Soon, the maroon-ribboned pins became the rage at Manchester Elementary, where almost everybody wanted one, she said.

"Everybody saw someone else with the pin, so they'd go home and bug their mother to give them something to bring into school," Jamie said, adding that other food drives at school hadn't brought in many items.

"I thought, maybe if I gave something back, they'd want it and I'd get more things."

The pins went more rapidly than expected, and eventually Jamie -- who raised $21 for supplies by cleaning the houses of her grandmother and aunt -- found herself making 400 of the pins.

"She didn't expect it to be this big," Mrs. Ridgely said, noting that Jamie insisted on earning money for the pins. "She said, 'One hundred ought to be plenty.' Well, 100 pins were gone about two days."

Jamie's altruistic spirit goes beyond food.

After a three-week rest, Jamie plans to go out again, this time looking for coats, hats and mittens for needy children.

"What we've told her all these years must have rubbed off," Mrs. Ridgely said, adding that she has taught Jamie to think of others before herself. "She's remembered it."

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