Students at Damien High School in La Verne, including members of the football team, have teamed up with a local charity, Sowing Seeds for Life, to raise money to feed the needy and also collect toys to be distributed to underprivileged children.
Damien students put on two “taco lunch” fundraisers last month that together raised $1,200 and later organized a toy drive that began with Damien’s football game against Ayala of Chino Hills on Nov. 9.
The toy drive will continue through Nov. 18 (drop-offs at the school are welcomed). It will hopefully provide thousands of gifts for Sowing Seeds for Life’s fourth annual Christmas in the Park event at Ganesha Park in Pomona Saturday, Dec. 3, noon to 4 p.m.
Prior to the official beginning of the toy drive at the game against Ayala, members of the Damien football team had already contributed more than 200 toys to the drive. And football players will be among the student volunteers helping out at the Christmas in the Park event.
This is a story that shows not all is wrong with today’s youth, that there are young people who care about doing the right thing and helping others.
The story begins with Jan Inger, a 68-year-old La Verne resident who became a Sowing Seeds for Life volunteer about three years ago after, within a five-month period, losing her companion of 26 years, her best friend and her 44-year-old son.
“I was in a very dark place in my life and I was fearful of never getting out of it when a friend told me about Sowing Seeds for Life,” Inger said. “Sowing Seeds, in a way, saved my life. It gave me a purpose.”
Inger was responsible for getting Damien students involved with Sowing Seeds for Life.
“I may have had the idea but I could not have achieved it without a lot of help,” she said. “I really encourage other to participate and volunteer. There is so much more we can do if we have the manpower to do it.”
The non-profit community outreach organization was founded in December 2007 by Glendora resident Vicki Brown, who is the CEO and president of DPI Labs, a multimillion aerospace company located at 1350 Arrow Highway in La Verne.
Initially, the charity consisted of a small garden that helped provide food to some 100 people per month. Now it provides food to more than 6,000 per month and operates a community garden at Falcon Ranch, a 45-acre spread owned by John Defalco in the foothills of San Dimas Canyon. More than 1 million pounds of food is distributed a year at food pantries at DPI Labs on the first and third Wednesday of every month, 3-5 p.m., and at several other locations on various days throughout the month.
SSFL, as it is called for short, now also provides children’s educational aid, housing, medical, nutritional and social services. It was recently won a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank award for its commitment in the fight against hunger.
A major source of income for SSFL is an annual charity golf tournament that has attracted such sports celebrities as Jerry West, James Worthy, Jim Harrick and Trevor Denman – and many more. Next year’s tournament is scheduled for Oct. 8 at Glendora Country Club.
“We are in need of funds to expand our facilities at DPI Labs so Sowing Seeds will have its own home,” Brown said.
Inger first brought Damien on board about a year-and-a-half ago. She was driving past the school when she had this impulse to turn around and pull into the parking lot. She went into the school office and announced she was from Sowing Seeds for Life and wanted to talk to someone about getting student there involved with the charity.
She was put in touch with Stephen Patten, a history and world religion teacher at the all-boys private Catholic school who also serves as the Christian service coordinator.
Since its inception, the 59-year-old all-boys school with an enrollment of around 1,000 has always required its students put in at least 100 hours of community service before they graduate. So Inger had come to the right place.
Damien students right away began offering their services to SSFL, but they have really stepped it up this school year.
That’s mainly because of senior Jacky Yao, who at the start of the year founded a community outreach club with the help of two of his friends, Jason Haney, now the vice president of the club, and Keith Waldron, a defensive tackle who is also the captain of the football team.
“These are three wonderful young men,” Inger said. “They’re amazing.”
Yao has applied to Pomona College and other schools and plans study communications. Haney has earned a swimming scholarship to Virginia Tech, where he plans to major in mechanical engineering. Waldron’s mother, Nikki, said her son is leaning toward UC Santa Barbara.
Yao applied for a Prudential Spirit of Community scholarship and as a state finalist will be in Washington in May for a visit with President Obama. The paper Yao wrote in applying for the scholarship was titled “Power of One.”
“The idea is that one person has the power to get hundreds of people involved in community service,” Yao said.
And that’s what he has done. His community outreach club now has some 300 members.
“A big thing was Coach (Greg) Gano getting the football team involved,” Yao said. “That helped so much.”
The power of one also came into play that day Inger decided to turn around and pay a visit to a high school she was not very familiar with. But she is now, and very thankful for that.
And so should the people who benefit from all that Sowing Seeds for Life does for them.
For further information, contact Larry Stewart at 626 445-8631