Donate to Backpack Love
Straight Street Revolution accepts nonperishable food items in plastic or canned containers to feed families of four or five as well as family games for the holidays. Send monetary donations to Straight Street Revolution, 2076 Memorial Park Drive, Gainesville. Donations can also be brought there between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact Todd Robson at 770-540-2437 for more information.
On any given day, the Oakwood Walmart is stocked with about 1,300 boxed packages of Ramen noodles.
Kristen McCole, 13, knows that fact well. She bought almost all of them recently to donate to a local charity.
"I'd been tutoring over the summer and I had made $1,000," said the eighth-grader at DaVinci Academy in Gainesville. "I thought, ‘I've got money to spare. I'm sure these people would appreciate it a lot more than whatever I would get with it.'"
Members of Straight Street Revolution Ministry's Backpack Love program came to a DaVinci Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting and told students they needed nonperishable food items.
The group's goal was for the school to collect 150 boxes of Ramen, she said.
One of Kristen's teachers, Gary Martin, told students if they collected enough boxes they could shave his head. Later he upped the ante — if they brought in enough boxes, they could dye his hair and he would match their donation, said Todd Robson, a member of the ministry.
"My school can get things done as far as donation goes, but I didn't think they'd be getting 150 (boxes). I thought I could get them started," Kristen said. "Backpack Love was really pleading for this Ramen and they really needed it."
She set aside $250 and bought 111 boxes of Ramen noodles, the equivalent of 1,332 meals.
Her mother, Kathy McCole, was originally not so sure about the idea.
"I questioned it, but you know, when Kristen makes up her mind to do anything, she is all for it. There is no talking her out of it," Kathy McCole said. "I just tried to ask her maybe if she wanted to spend half of that, or if there might be some other options she may want to donate her money to, but she was dead set on this."
What do 1,332 packs of Ramen noodles look like? At 4 inches long, 4.5 inches wide and 1 inch thick, that's nearly 24,000 cubic inches — the equivalent of about 400 liters of soft drinks.
"I didn't think we would fit it all in the car," Kristen said. "We fit everything in, but every time we stopped at a stoplight, one would fall on our heads. ... I've never seen so many noodles."
Ramen was the chosen food item because a little money can buy a lot of meals, she said.
"We completely cleared the whole shelf area (of Walmart) and then we didn't think we had enough, turned the corner and saw they had an endcap and pretty much depleted that area, too," Kathy McCole said.
They had so many boxes of Ramen that other shoppers tried to grab them off the cart.
"We were like, ‘No, that's ours and we're possessing our Ramen noodles," Kristen said. "We got all of them except for the ones that were broken open or someone had spilled something on."
She wants to get the donation matched by the Walmart but has not yet been successful.
The McColes brought the noodles to DaVinci on Dec. 15.
"We had eight people just rush out and they were going, ‘Oh my gosh, you bought all of that yourself?'" Kristen said. "They were so happy. They were almost crying, they were shaking my hand and they said that because of my donation, they'd be good until March. I was so very happy. It was definitely worth it."
Kathy McCole said donating the Ramen was "like it was Christmas or something" because of how ecstatic everyone was when they found out there were 111 boxes in her vehicle.
Robson was at a grocery store with another member of the ministry while the donations were being picked up at DaVinci. He said they were discussing how they should have picked up Ramen noodles while there, and not 10 minutes later got the call about the sizeable donation.
"It just blessed my heart to hear what she did," he said. "It was just amazing to me that she'd given up so much to help these families."
The noodle effort was only part of Kristen's giving spirit. She also was helping her Girl Scout troop bake cookies to give local firemen.
Robson called the donation "a miracle" and said he couldn't wait to meet Kristen.
"I was just happy that I was able to. I know lots of people would like to help, but they don't have any money to spare and I thought, ‘Well, I do,'" Kristen said. "I shouldn't be hoarding my money. I'm not going to use it for anything that's this meaningful if I spend it myself."