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Langley Middle School students raise funds for nonprofit

Langley Middle School students Leena and Lakota Clarkson receive a $400 check from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders CEO Matt Nichols in response to a presentation the students made at the Freeland business on behalf of the nonprofit Ryan’s House for Youth.   - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Langley Middle School students Leena and Lakota Clarkson receive a $400 check from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders CEO Matt Nichols in response to a presentation the students made at the Freeland business on behalf of the nonprofit Ryan’s House for Youth.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Kids helping kids produced $400 for Ryan’s House for Youth.

Two Langley Middle School students successfully made a presentation to Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on behalf of the homeless youth support organization. The girls, sisters Leena and Lakota Clarkson, were surprised and elated to receive a check from the shipyard’s CEO last week.

“We just thought we’d help others who don’t have as much as we do,” said Lakota, an 11-year-old sixth grader.

The girls were inspired by their math teacher, Sandy Gilbert, who is also on the Ryan’s House board of directors. Gilbert has been busy stumping for the nonprofit, which is in the process of filing building permits and a capital campaign to build a shelter in the Scatchet Head neighborhood. All the girls needed was a little clarity about what Ryan’s House is, and then they had their idea.

“One day she explained it a little bit better and that they give money to homeless shelters,” said Leena, a 13-year-old seventh grader.

The Clarkson sisters asked to present to Nichols Brothers’ community giving committee. Their dad Jared is an employee at the Freeland shipyard, and accompanied them to the meeting along with their mom Nicole and Ryan’s House Executive Director Lori Cavender. Cavender had not met the Clarkson girls until they all arrived for the presentation at the Nichols Bros. parking lot.

“I think that it’s great to see kids supporting their peers in ways that are a little out of the ordinary,” Cavender said.

“I thought it was extremely sweet of them.”

The two young philanthropists took turns reading their prepared statement, independent of volunteering hours, school credit or personal gain, for about five minutes.

Leena and Lakota took a lesson from their teacher and distributed the Ryan’s House bracelets and brochures.

They told the committee about the need for a homeless shelter for Whidbey Island youths, pointing out that three percent live in an unsheltered environment and are too ashamed to tell anyone.

It was enough to impress the six panelists who agreed to write a $400 check the same night on Feb. 24.

“I thought they did a wonderful presentation. I admired the fact that they did their homework,” Cavender said. “They knew their numbers when they presented to Nichols Brothers. They gave the same speech I would have given.”

Matt Nichols, the recently re-appointed CEO, met the girls during school Monday to hand them the check. Though he was not at the presentation, Nichols said this is the first time in his career students sought money from the company, and that committee members praised Leena and Lakota for their professionalism and dedication.

“This is one they were very impressed with,” Nichols said. “They (Leena and Lakota) sold the program.”

Nichols Bros. is a frequent financier of South End nonprofits, especially those that aide young people and families. For years, the boat building company has supported the Independence Day festivities at Celebrate America and the youth group ministry Young Life.

“We try to really follow the youth,” Nichols said. “When we see something like this, we want to support it.”

The money, like almost every other dollar that Cavender gets, will go into the capital fund. More than the dollars and cents, however, Cavender said Leena and Lakota’s acts of charity showed the power that youths have.

“It’s not very often that kids do big things and get recognized for it,” Cavender said.

“We have really strong leaders in our young people, and they’re doing big things.”


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