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Teens project a basket case

CHARITY -- Brody Everett is organizing the delivery of holiday food baskets to 35 families
by: Nancy Townsley, Brody Everett

Brody Everett has been spending more time on the phone than usual lately.

The Forest Grove High School senior has placed dozens of phone calls to organize the delivery of holiday food baskets to needy folks in Cornelius, North Plains and Forest Grove - all to fulfill the requirements of his senior project.

'My family thought this would be a cool project to do,' said Everett, who also will need to write an essay, deliver a speech about what he learned and put together a scrapbook about the experience.

At the Forest Grove United Church of Christ on Dec. 19 and 20, Everett and a crew of volunteers will assemble the food baskets, creating a miniature pantry for the recipients chock-full of turkey, rice, beans, staples like flour and sugar, hygiene products and gifts for the children.

That same afternoon, they'll board vans and deliver the baskets with a bit of holiday flair.

'We'll probably sing some songs on the way,' said Everett, whose family has 'been involved with this type of program for as long as I can remember.'

His mom, Carrie, organizes the delivery of packages to college students from the church, encouraging them during finals week. One of the beneficiaries this year was Brody's sister, Kelci, a sophomore at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

His dad, Mark, who took the family to Europe on a one-year exchange program when Brody was three, has always influenced his son's giving spirit.

'My mom and dad have stood behind me,' he said.

His mentor, Tim Orr, has kept tabs on his progress, and Joni Stoneking, one of two pastors on the UCC's temporary staff this fall, gave him helpful suggestions as well.

But there's no doubt that Everett himself has taken on the lion's share of the effort by lining up a contingent of assembly and delivery personnel.

'I've done interviews with every family,' said Everett, who got the names through Adam Hampton of the Washington County HANDS (Holiday Assistance Network Data System) program. 'They all seem very accepting and appreciative.'

Phil Zapf and Abby Aguirre, who speak Spanish, helped Everett communicate with the Latino families on his list. The largest family includes two adults and six children, Everett said.

'These are people who might not have much of a Christmas without the basket,' he said.

Everett also solicited cash donations from members of the UCC congregation. As of last week, he'd collected a mere $20 - but he's not discouraged.

'There's still time to help,' he said. 'People can sponsor a whole family, donate money or donate individual items for the baskets.'

The project has made an impact on Everett, an honor student who participates in cross country and track at FGHS and likes to snowboard in his spare time.

'I started planning this project around Nov. 20, right before Thanksgiving,' he said.

Because the Nov. 23 holiday was centered around food and family gatherings, Everett said the sheer number of people on the HANDS list gave him pause.

It also spurred him on in his quest to make the holidays brighter for as many families as possible.

'I've become aware of how many people really need help,' Everett said.