From the Widow’s Mite to 1,344 Quarters: Minot, N.D., Girl Has Heart for the Poor
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 31, 2017) Leah Charley was 7 when she saw pictures of starving children in Food For The Poor flyers that came to her home. The heartbreaking images of the reality of poverty saddened Leah and stirred her to come up with a way to help them.
Over the next three years, she collected 1,344 quarters from family and friends. With her parents' help, she donated $336 to Food For The Poor this spring.
Leah is now 10 and recently completed fourth grade at Bishop Ryan Catholic School in Minot, N.D. The daughter of Ralph and Kathy Charley is the youngest of 12 children.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I saw how they had to walk to go get water every day," said Leah.
Kathy Charley was not surprised when her daughter approached her with her desire to do something for destitute families.
"Leah has always had a heart for the poor and would speak of children she would see at school who she thought were poor or families at the grocery store who seemed to not have enough money," Kathy Charley said.
The two spent evenings doing homework, then visiting Food For The Poor's web site.
"'Mom, we have to help them' was how it began," Kathy Charley said. "What got Leah were the pictures of the children and the elderly, and the fact that for a given amount of money, she could actually buy some chickens or a goat for a family."
Leah found an old candy tin that was a bank with a slit on top for money. She covered the candy pictures on the tin can with white paper and drew a quarter on it with the words "quarters for the poor."
Leah decided to leave her collection can by the refrigerator "because everyone walks by it all the time" and would be reminded to donate.
The loose change added up quickly. The money she raised was enough to feed at least seven children every day for a year in the developing countries served by Food For The Poor.
Leah's kindness and generosity brings to mind the story of the widow's mite. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus watched as rich people gave large sums as offering in the temple. A woman in poverty came in to offer her small contribution, which was all she had and which she cheerfully gave.
"The meaning of the verse is that everyone can give something," said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. "Now, hungry children and others will benefit from Leah's gift from the heart. This is the principle on which our ministry was founded -- the gift of the widow's mite."
Kathy Charley said Leah's siblings are supportive and impressed with their sister's generosity, sometimes feeling a little guilty if they spend a quarter.
"Now, anyone who has a quarter or a dozen just drops it in the old tin," Kathy Charley said. "When it feels like it's getting full, she dumps the money out and piles the quarters in stacks of four. We teach a little math, she counts it all, puts it back in the tin and we keep collecting. She gets great joy out of counting it, and returning it, until she has what she feels is enough worth of the mailing, or able to buy a chicken or another goat."
Leah, who wants to work in the military when she grows up, said she's not done raising money for the poor. She plans to continue collecting quarters over the summer and will ask her teachers in the fall if she can do it at school.
Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma advised never to underestimate the power of what one compassionate person such as Leah can do.
"Leah has an extremely big heart. What she's doing for the poor is amazing especially when you take into consideration that she is so young," he said.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. Over the last 10 years, fundraising and other administrative costs averaged less than 5% of our expenses; more than 95% of all donations went directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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