Entrepreneurs push community service needs at Eastlake

January 17, 2014

By Neil Pierson

At Eastlake High School, members of the DECA club are involved in community service projects at various points of the year, and last week was one of those times.

DECA is a national organization for high school and college students looking to boost their business and marketing skills. At Eastlake, students try to find causes in their own back yard they can use for both altruistic and personal gain.

From Jan. 7-13, Eastlake DECA gathered new and used clothing from students, then brought it to the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle. The mission is a Christian organization that “provides emergency care and long-term recovery services to hurting and homeless people in the greater Seattle area,” its website states.

Eastlake DECA members compete annually in competitions, and did well last April when 17 students traveled to the international DECA event in Anaheim, Calif.

A public-relations campaign is one project this year’s club is working on, and junior Madelyn Mendlen said the clothing drive resulted from an overarching theme DECA identified – not many Eastlake students participate in community-service activities.

“Students at this school are very busy, and they don’t realize the importance, I think, of drives like this, and what the end result is,” Mendlen said.

“They just see, ‘Oh, I’m giving my clothes to this person, another student, and then it’s done. Then I don’t know what happens.’ So we’re trying to show them what the end result of that is, and why that’s so important.”

To get its message out to the roughly 1,600 students at Eastlake, the club took to social media. It posted reminders about the clothing drive on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with links to articles about the importance of community service.

Spencer Larson, the club’s vice president of fundraising, said raising awareness is a key goal of the public-relations campaign.

“Like Maddie said, people are really busy, but they also don’t realize how much we have in Sammamish, how wealthy we are and how much it can mean to people that are less fortunate,” Larson said.

“And they haven’t gone to the places in Seattle that are kind of rundown, where the homeless and poor are that don’t have the money and the clothing, the resources that we do have here.”

The clothing drive is only one of several recent efforts at giving back among DECA members. Last year, for example, Mendlen collected items for Pantry Packs, a Redmond-based group that looks to feed needy Lake Washington School District students on the weekends when they’re not at school.

“It struggled at first, and I think that’s part of what motivated me to try it again this year, and to take a different approach to it,” Mendlen said.

Tent City IV, a homeless encampment that came to Sammamish’s Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in October, has been another source of inspiration for Mendlen.

She and her mother raise chickens at their home, and donate the eggs to Tent City residents.

“I think it’s a cool opportunity to see how helpful (this is), to see that my eggs are going to go and help feed someone for the night, that wouldn’t have food otherwise,” Mendlen said.

The purpose of DECA, to help students build post-graduation business skills and connections, has factored into the work at Eastlake, said junior Sarthak Kher.

“It’s really nice that we could help the people in need with this project, because usually we don’t see anyone taking the initiative to help people from Sammamish,” Kher said. “… And it teaches you about how the real world actually works.”

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