St. Mary School seventh-grader Rian Mecklenburg proved one person can make a difference in the lives of many when he organized a neighborhood food drive, netting 829 pounds of food for the Woodstock Food Pantry, 1033 Lake Ave.

The idea occurred to the 13-year-old shortly before the holidays when he accompanied his grandmother to the pantry to pick up food for a neighbor in need. The visit struck a chord with Rian, who said he felt sad to think there were so many people in need, especially during the holiday season, and he decided to do something.

He enlisted the help of his mom, Sherri Mecklenburg, and together they drafted a letter asking for donations to help stock the food pantry. They delivered the letters to neighbors throughout their Dakota Ridge subdivision, neighboring Serenity Creek and some of Westwood Lakes, as well as other friends in Woodstock.

The flyers went out in the evening Dec. 10, with a request to have donations ready for pickup Dec. 14. They had no idea what kind of response to expect, but despite the tight turnaround, they filled up one car and had to get a truck to finish.

“We went out last night in the cold weather and we were amazed at everyone’s generosity,” said Rian’s father, Rob Mecklenburg.

In addition to more than 800 pounds of food, they collected toys and $50 cash for the cause.

“I couldn’t get the smile off my face,” said Rian. “I got a bigger smile when I looked out in the garage and saw how full it was.”

Food pantry coordinator Jackie Budmayer told the Mecklenburgs she was estimating the donation would be around 300 pounds, but she was absolutely amazed by the quantity of food brought in and thankful for all they delivered Dec. 16.

Looking back at what he accomplished, Rian said, “This was my first time, but not my last.”

His goal for next year is to collect 1,000 pounds.

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