How three girls put their creativity to work and raised funds for causes that they cared about. For one girl, Ruby Sowder, it was a matter of honoring a family commitment to affordable housing.
Ruby, Naomi, and Hannah, fourth graders at Ordway Elementary, had a plan. They would sell their homemade crafts, baked goods, and bouquets at a farm stand to raise money for a trip to New York City. But it wasn’t the success they had envisioned. Looking back, Ruby can see that their prices “were not reasonable,” and the foot traffic was insufficient. A year later they tried again. Same merchandise, better prices, and a new location, but a lot more money and an entirely new purpose. This time they would donate the profit to an environmental organization that cleaned plastic from the ocean. Ruby had been “heartbroken” when she learned of a whale found dead with plastic in its belly. “I don’t want that to happen again,” she said.
For the third and most recent farm stand this spring, which pulled in an impressive $151, they decided to split the proceeds between the salmon conservation nonprofit Long Live the Kings and Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB).
They operated the farm stand over two days at two different roadside locations, after gathering sprigs of cherry blossoms and forsythia into bouquets, baking up batches of chocolate chip cookies, and felting, beading, and knotting until they had an abundance of bookmarks, bracelets, keychains, and wooly creations. (Ruby’s specialty, felted gnomes with tall pointy hats and long wispy beards, sold out quickly.)
It was Ruby’s father who introduced them to HRB and its work developing homes for people who cannot afford, in Ruby’s words, a “super expensive house in a super awesome spot.”
Ruby’s dad, Dan Sowder, was well familiar with HRB, as he and his wife, Brenna, had supported HRB in the past and were planning a farewell gift. Six years ago, just as the island’s housing costs began to skyrocket, they were fortunate to find a home they could afford. Today they are preparing to leave Bainbridge to be closer to family on the East Coast, and having sold their home at a decent profit, they feel compelled to give back so that the community that shared its bounty with their family over the years can share with those who do not have the same means and timing.
Brenna grew up in a working-class town in Massachusetts and values the socioeconomic diversity that enriched her childhood.
“When you live in an affluent community,” she said, “you run the risk of having a single perspective on life. When you have greater economic diversity in your community and awareness that there are many ways to experience the world, your perspective is expanded. We live on an island, which can be a lot like being in a bubble. It’s nice in some ways but can become too insulated.”
Ruby and her family are moving to Maine, which, she points out, is a lot closer to New York City than Bainbridge Island. Her mother will sponsor the trip, but Ruby has saved up money for souvenirs—and, knowing Ruby, perhaps an important cause or two.